Sun crime reporter, Anthony France, has been convicted of aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office. Mr France had paid PC Timothy Edwards a total of £22,000 for 42 stories over a period of 3 years.
PC Edwards was employed as part of SO15 counter terrorist command at Heathrow Airport. Mr France was a staff reporter at the Sun from September 2004. PC Edwards searched police databases and sold personal information about suspects and about victims of crime.
The court was told that PC Edwards had been “given” to Mr France as a source. He was told by a colleague “I’ve spoken to a lawyer and it’s fine” after meeting Mr Edwards at a pub in 2008.
Mr France had told the jury that he never had any idea that paying a source for information was wrong or unlawful. He said that he never thought that he or PC Edwards were doing something illegal.
The jury was told that cash payments were used because PC Edwards wanted to remain a confidential source and did not want to lose his job. Mr France said he had not had any training concerning paying public officials.
Mr France accepted under cross-examination that he had not claimed in his Defence Statement that any of the stories were in the public interest.
In closing the case to the jury, the prosecution suggested that this was not a case about public interest journalism but rather, about a grubby relationship based on the commercially driven pages of the Sun seeking their next big story.
The jury was not told that PC Edwards had pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office and was jailed for two years in 2014.
Mr France was released on bail to 29 May 2015 when he will be sentenced. Judge Timothy Pontius said: “I emphasise very firmly that the fact I’m releasing you on bail should not serve as any sort of indication of what the sentence will be.”
Mr France’s trial is the first since the CPS issued new guidance on cases involving payments made to corrupt public officials by journalists on 17 April 2015.
[Update] On 27 October 2016, Mr France’s conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal on the grounds that legally inadequate jury directions had made the conviction unsafe (see R v France  EWCA Crim 1588). The Court said that an order for a re-trial would not be in the public interest.