Richard Kovalevsky QC, making his closing speech for The Sun’s Thames Valley reporter Jamie Pyatt, said that reporting on the activities of notorious murderers and cannibals was in the public interest.
Over the past two months, Kingston Crown Court has heard that Mr Pyatt, The Sun’s Thames Valley reporter, paid a Broadmoor worker, Robert Neave, for inside information about goings-on in the Berkshire facility.
Making his final remarks on behalf of his client, Mr Kovalevsky told the 12-strong jury that Mr Pyatt’s obtaining of a Broadmoor report containing some “medical detail” about the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, represented the “high water mark” of the Crown’s case against him in relation to the hospital.
Referring to the serial killer Robert Knapper – pictured by The Sun feeding chickens in Broadmoor’s grounds – Mr Kovalevsky said: “I don’t think Knapper and his chickens and his little bucket are going to do it.”
Infamous for his crimes, the Yorkshire Ripper was “at the very epicentre of the public eye,” Mr Kovalevsky said, adding: “He put himself there”.
He asked the jury: “We rhetorically state: if that’s not in the public interest, what is?”
He said of Broadmoor patients: “You’ve got people who take away parts of people… you’ve got other people who eat people.”
He asked jurors: “Did you find it slightly uncomfortable to hear [Broadmoor’s former clinical director] Dr Murray say: ‘Well, in my view, when you have people who are this ill, really the public interest in them stops as soon as they get into Broadmoor – you don’t have a right to know’?”
Pressing his point home, Mr Kovalevsky looked at the jury and said: “I mean, you don’t have a right to know.”
“I respectfully suggest that you would want to know if these people were being resettled near you. The personalities chosen by the prosecution in all these [stories] are the highest profile, the highest it’s possible to get, in any century… they have public interest written right through them, and you are entitled to know what’s going on.”
Mr Kovalevsky concluded his speech by paying tribute to Mr Pyatt’s personal qualities and asking whether he would ever have knowingly entered into a criminal conspiracy – as the Crown alleged he did when he paid Mr Neave and a Surrey Police constable, Simon Quinn, for information for stories.
Mr Kovalevsky said:
“What you’re dealing with is a mature man who’s essentially not a journalist who’s flying close to the wind… He’s not forever up in front of the PCC getting reprimands. And he’s a criminal – according to the prosecution.”
He asked the jury to consider whether the public officials receiving money from Mr Pyatt were really – as the Crown had to prove in order to secure a conviction – guilty of such serious misconduct as to cause an “affront.”
“Payment is such a grey area,” the barrister said.
“Knowing all you know about him [Mr Pyatt], did he knowingly lend himself to crime? Did he decide: ‘I’m going to join this criminal conspiracy’?
“He said: ‘You know if I thought I was doing anything criminal while I was a journalist, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.”
Mr Kovalevsky concluded: “You have to decide that Jamie Pyatt decided to become a criminal. In our respectful submission that would be perverse.”
Mr Pyatt and five other past and present Sun journalists, including his then news editor Chris Pharo and deputy news editor Ben O’Driscoll, deny conspiring to commit misconduct in public office. The case continues.
This post originally appeared on the Hacked Off Blog and is reproduced with permission and thanks