In a third trial involving journalists from Britain’s best-selling daily paper, the Sun’s chief foreign correspondent, Nick Parker, faces five charges involving payments to public officials and the theft of the mobile phone of Labour MP and former deputy chief whip, Siobhan McDonagh in 2010.
Before a jury of seven women and five men, Michael Parroy QC, the lead crown prosecutor, set out the case for the crown yesterday.
Parker, 53, employed at the Sun since 1988, was joined in the dock by Lee Brockhouse, a 44 year old prison officer at Swaleside in Kent. Brockhouse faces one count of misconduct in public office for selling stories to the Sun. Parker faces a count of ‘aiding and abetting’.
They are joined by a third defendant Michael Ankers, 30, who is charged with stealing the phone of the Labour MP in October 2010 and handling stolen goods. Having claimed he ‘found the phone on the tube’, Ankers replaced McDonagh’s SIM card with his own, and then contacted the Sun newspaper, the jury heard.
Parker met Ankers the day after the theft and – according the prosecution – organised a photographer to snap the meeting because he thought the phone was stolen. Parker then kept the phone overnight before returning to Ankers, who then passed it onto police.
Parker is also charged with handling a stolen smart phone, and an additional charge of unauthorised access to programs and data from a computer.
In his morning opening statement, Michael Parroy QC explained the first two counts Parker faces – of aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office. They relate to two stories passed on by Alan Tierney, 42, a former constable with the Surrey Police, who was dismissed in July 2012, and in Feb 2013 pleaded guilty to two offences of misconduct in public office.
PC Tierney contacted the Sun Talkback desk in March 2009 after the paper had led with a front page about the arrest of footballer John Terry’s mother and mother-in-law outside a branch of Tesco for alleged shoplifting. In an email exchange shown to the jury, Tierney informs a Sun news desk editor that we was “the arresting officer” and is quizzed about more information on the promise of anonymity and a ‘donation to charity”
Tierney asked: “Can you promise me no one will find out it comes from me?” He was emailed a reply: “We never ever tell”
The news editor then contacted Nick Parker who asked, “does he want a bung?” After several phone calls and texts, the Sun leads with a front page exclusive about the arrests of Susan Poole and Susan Terry, and the value of the stolen goods from M&S and Tesco. Payment records show £750 being paid into the account of Tierney’s brother in law, and rapidly withdrawn as cash.
A second charge of aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office relates to reports later in 2009 about a domestic altercation between Ronnie Wood and his partner Ekaterina Ivanova. PC Tierney didn’t attend the scene, but took a witness statement from a local resident who had seen the alleged assault.
All three defendants deny all the charges, and the trial is expected to continue for around three weeks.
This post originally appeared on the Hacked Off blog and is reproduced with permission and thanks