The Sun’s relationship with some of it’s sources was “profoundly corrupt,” a court heard yesterday. Summing up the prosecution case against four senior staff at the newspaper, an army officer and his wife Michel Parroy QC told an Old Bailey jury that the trail was “in the end about greed,” greed from the sources for money and greed from the Sun for stories.
Parroy went on to say that the Sun journalists on trial thought they could justify their actions by using the idea of freedom of the press as a “Harry Potter invisibility cloak,” to conceal their actions. He told the court that the newspaper seemed to believe it could publish whatever they wanted “as long as they wrap it in the fig leaf of public interest,” noting that in all of the internal emails the jury had been shown “there was not one word about the public interest.”
Responding to defence suggestions that the stories allegedly sourced from civil servants and army officers related to issues that the public needed to know the prosecution barrister said that while a few did meet that standard the bulk of what was published were “wildly overblown, smutty tales designed to sell the Sun,” adding that “there is no public interest in the Sun being first to a story, only a commercial interest.”
The QC also spoke about the role of then Sun editor Rebekah Brooks over the stories. He told the jury that Brooks had “let the cat out of the bag,” when she told a Parliamentary select committee that she had paid police officers for information and he reminded him that she had signed off the cash payments made to a Ministry of defence civil servant, Bettina Jordan-Barber for allegedly confidential information and for an alleged picture of Prince William in a bikini. Brooks was cleared of charges relating to these payments at a trial last year. “The editors blame the reporters and the reporters blame the editors,” Parroy said, “it’s a convenient façade.”
The prosecutor concluded his speech by saying “no-one doubts the need for a free and active press.” However the prosecutor reminded the jury that Sun chief reporter John Kay had said in evidence “the end justified the means,” and the journalists on trial “never thought they would be brought to book, but they have been exposed.” He then invited the jury to find all of the defendants guilty and ended his closing address.
On trial are former Sandhurst instructor John Hardy are his wife Claire, Sun Royal editor Duncan Larcombe, deputy editor Geoffrey Webster, executive editor Fergus Shanahan and former chief reporter John Kay. All are facing charges relating to a series of payments to Hardy and a Ministry of Defence civil servant, Bettina Jordan-Barber, for the prosecution allege, confidential army information including details of military casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.
All of the defendants deny all of the charges, the trial continues with defence closing speeches expected to last for the rest of the week.