The deputy editor of The Sun told police that there was “more to life” than the “public interest” as defined by Press Complaints Commission code of practice and “If newspapers just dealt with matters of public interest as defined by the PCC code none would be sold”, a court heard on 29 January.
Geoffrey Webster made the remarks during recorded police interviews after he was charged in connection with allegations of corrupt payments to public officials. He also told the interviewing officers “since the Leveson inquiry people had been frightened off from ringing in with stories”.
The 2012 interviews were read to a jury trying four Sun journalists, an army officer and his wife at London’s Old Bailey. Asked about his attitude to paying police officers Webster stated “It may be appropriate to pay a public official if it rights a great injustice or puts right a great wrong”. He also said that while he was always aware it was illegal to pay a police officer with other public officials it was “less clear”.
The court was also read a 1998 staff appraisal of the executive editor, Fergus Shanahan, which praised his “thrusting” style but added “His arrogance and single-mindedness are a necessary part of the job. However he must be less abrasive”.
Shanahan’s defence barrister later gave the jury a folder of internal News International emails including one from his client to then editor Rebekah Brooks about a conversation he had with Rupert Murdoch. In the mail the executive editor tells Brooks “KRM [Keith Rupert Murdoch] is on a mission again for substance, thinks we are too light”. Brooks replied “No probs”.
In another email to Brooks, Shanahan complains about the Scottish version of The Sun saying “The Record regularly getting the better of us in Scotland, full of verve and energy, Scottish Sun is just English edition with a few court stories, it’s went off the boil”.
In the dock at the trial, which is in its fourth week, are Sun reporters John Kay, Duncan Larcombe, Fergus Shanahan and Geoffrey Webster as well as army officer John Hardy and his wife Claire.
All of the defendants deny all of the charges.
Note: This is a corrected post from 29 January 2015. It has been pointed out to us that the comments in the first three paragraphs were originally attributed, in error, to Fergus Shanahan who, in fact, gave a no comment interview to the police. We apologise for this error.