There were understandable scenes of jubilation from the friends and family of the two Sun and one Daily Mirror reporters at the Old Bailey yesterday as a jury found them not guilty on all charges. The Mirror’s Graham Brough and Neil Millard and Brandon Malinsky of the Sun walked free from court.
The other two defendants Tom Wells and former immigration detention officer Mark Blake will have to wait until next week to hear if they will face a re-trial after the jury deadlocked on two charges against them and failed to reach a verdict.
In contrast prosecution counsel and police officers looked glumly on as another failure to secure a conviction unfolded. The statistics make grim reading for the Crown Prosecution Service (“CPS”) of the 29 reporters charged under Operation Elveden only three have so far been convicted, with one of those convictions later quashed by the Court of Appeal and another invited to appeal. While 25 public officials have been found guilty, and have often been jailed, two journalists being found guilty after an operation costing over £12 million is not an outcome that the prosecutors either anticipated or can be happy about.
We should always be careful about trying to guess why a particular jury made a particular decision, each case is different. However it is now obvious that a pattern is emerging. The public officials who received money from reporters are generally being found guilty, while the journalists who paid them are being acquitted.
There are sound legal reasons why this might happen. In the case of the official the prosecution has to prove that they knew their actions were “serious enough to constitute a breach of the public trust”. To convict a journalist a jury also has to be sure that the reporter knew or ought to have known (at the time they made the payment) that the actions of the official were serious enough to cross a criminal threshold not just an employment disciplinary one. A defendant testifying that he had no idea that paying money for stories could be a crime until they were arrested, that he did not know the source was a public official, and that he believed all the stories published as a result to have been in the public interest creates a doubts in the minds of juries that even the most hard-bitten prosecution counsel have struggled to dispel.
In April 2015 the CPS announced it was carrying out a review to decide if it should proceed with the 12 outstanding trials of reporters over allegations of corruption. An announcement was expected on the 24 April on whether pending trials would go ahead. But the CPS announced yesterday that two journalists facing forthcoming trials and seven facing re-trials will now no longer face charges. Trials of four public officials and three journalists will be proceeding. The two people who have just been told that the jury was ”hung” in their cases will find out if there is to be re-trial in their case on Friday.
Elveden in numbers
- 30 charged (one faced more than one set of charges).
- 3 convicted (1 quashed on appeal, and one invited to appeal – neither of whom will now be re-prosecuted).
- 1 Not prosecuted.
- 1 left on file.
- 13 jury acquittals.
- 12 subject to CPS review – of which only 3 will now face charges.
- £12 million cost of operation (excluding court costs).