Judge Marks listed the issues at Kingston Crown Court as he began his summing up in the cases of six journalists employed by the best-selling newspaper.
All six deny conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office over alleged illegal payments to various public officials including police officers, a Broadmoor worker and a prison officer.
They are Sun head of news Chris Pharo, former deputy news editor (now deputy news editor of the Daily Mail) Ben O’Driscoll, development director (formerly the paper’s managing editor) Graham Dudman, picture editor John Edwards, Thames Valley reporter Jamie Pyatt and former East Anglia reporter John Troup.
Beginning his summing up shortly before 11.00am, Judge Marks told the 12 jurors that they would have to decide each count separately, before returning a total of 14 verdicts.
He told them: “It seems to me there are seven central issues which have arisen in the course of the case and in the course of the arguments put to you.”
He listed the issues as follows:
Had the prosecution established there was a single agreement to commit conspiracy in public office? The judge said the issue was relevant to Counts 3, 4 and 5. He asked the jury whether over the period of each indictment, which ranged up to eight years in the case of Mr Pyatt’s payments to Surrey police officer Simon Quinn, there been one long conspiracy agreed to by the defendants?
Had a public officer provided the information, or some of the information, published in articles in the Sun? The judge said this was not in dispute in Counts 3, 4 and 5, but there was an issue in Counts 2 and 8. On Count 2 involving Mr Dudman and the Soham murders story, the judge reminded the jury that Mr Dudman had referred in his expense claims and emails to his contact being a City of London police officer.
The judge told the jury: “He [Dudman] did not deny that was the case, although he refused to confirm it.” Mr Dudman and Mr Troup did not accept on Count 8, about a hitman committing suicide in Whitemoor prison, that the source was a prison officer and therefore a public officer.
Judge Marks reminded the jury that in “a significant email” to Mr Dudman, then the paper’s managing director, Mr Troup had written: “The tipster is a prison officer at Whitemoor who has requested we pay him in cash.”
Did a defendant know their source was a public officer? Judge Marks said that would turn on three things:
1) On what terms did the jury believe the expenses claims forms and emails [referring to cash payments for sources] had been written? [Some defendants have testified about a practice known as ‘source boosting’ and about the submission of false expense claims – both of which involve the paper’s staff understanding the source or expenses to be falsely described.]
2) To what extent the jury believed that the defendants had read and absorbed the documents?
3) If they did so, what had the defendants understood by what was written in the documents?
If the source for a particular story was a public officer, was he “acting as such” when he provided the information? The judge explained: “What that means was that he [the public officer] was not at the time acting in a private capacity completely unrelated to his work.”
Judge Marks said: “With the exception of Mr Clegg [representing John Troup] none of the defence barristers have argued this point. You may conclude in reality that it is not something that it in dispute, provided you believe the others issues have been decided to your satisfaction.”
He reminded the jury that Mr Clegg had argued that although the tipster for the hitman hanging story might have been a prison officer “he may have gleaned the information about the suicide not in the course of his employment but whilst he was down the pub, in the way of gossip or title-tattle.” The judge went on: “Although of course one of the factors you will need to take into account is when he got the information and the circumstances in which he did so.”
Did a defendant understand that the information disclosed by a public official was confidential – that it had been held in confidence by that officer “by virtue of or by reason of his employment?” The judge told the court: “The fact that a story is published elsewhere, or was going to be published elsewhere does not, by itself, mean that the story is not confidential.”
Did a defendant, when entering into an unlawful agreement with an official, know or intend that the conduct of the public officer was sufficiently serious to amount to an abuse in the public’s trust in the office holder?
Did the public official disclosing the information do so without legal reason or justification?
All defendants deny the charges. The case continues.