John-Kay-2The former chief reporter of The Sun has accused the paper’s executives of “breaking the first rule of journalism”, by revealing his confidential sources after being found not guilty of making corrupt payments to a public official.

Speaking just minutes after his acquittal John Kay, 71, attacked News International (now News UK) for giving the police information which led to the arrest of Ministry of Defence civil servant Bettina Jordan-Barber for selling Kay information about army matters. Jordan-Barber later pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office and was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.

The jury also acquitted Sun Royal Editor, Duncan Larcombe; Executive Editor Fergus Shanahan; and Deputy Editor Geoffrey Webster on similar charges. There is no doubt that the verdicts will promote a debate in the media and especially the newspapers, about the wisdom of the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision to prosecute individual journalists rather than to consider corporate charges against the company itself.

During the nine week trial the jury was told that after the phone-hacking scandal News UK uploaded over 23 million emails into a secure computer system and these were then made available to the Metropolitan police to search for evidence of corruption. The four journalists argued in court that they received no training or guidance from their employers that paying public officials could lead to criminal charges despite their stories having been checked by the newspaper’s legal department.

The court was also told that the vast majority of the payments made to Jordan-Barber were personally signed off by then Sun editor Rebekah Brooks, although she testified in court last year that she had never been told the cash was destined for a civil servant. During the case a News International witness told the court that staff “lived in fear” during Brooks reign as editor.

Also found not guilty were former soldier John Hardy, who accused Sun management of “selling out the lower people” and his wife Claire who testified that she did not know the money her husband received was from the newspaper.

Although this case is over, the Old Bailey is currently hosting a trial of another three Sun reporters and a former Mirror reporter on similar charges and other Sun and Mirror journalists are due to face a jury later this year.