Sun Six Conspiracy: News Corp sacrifices journalists to save itself

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A criminal trial in London for six News Corporation reporters and editors has heard shocking new evidence that the company 'shopped' its own journalists to prevent corporate charges. Rodney E. Lever reports.

NEW EVIDENCE HAS PRODUCED SHOCKWAVES IN LONDON during a hearing of charges in the Kingston-Upon-Thames Crown court against six reporters from Rupert Murdoch's The Sun newspaper in Britain.

Defence counsel representing the reporters is claiming that the reporters were "dobbed in" by their employer, News Corporation.

There is evidence of hundreds of cash payments signed by Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of The Sun and later the chief executive of News Corporation in England, who was acquitted of any wrongdoing relating to phone hacking.

Even more surprising, the details were found in a Memoranda of Understanding provided to the Metropolitan Police by the management and services committee set up by News Corp in 2011 to investigate the phone hacking.

The former managing editor of The Sun, Graham Dudman; the deputy news editor, Ben O'Driscoll; photo editor, John Edwards; Chris Pharo, head of the news department; and reporters Jamie Pyatt and John Troup are all on trial.

Lawyers for the defence say these men were shopped to the policeto avoid charges being laid against News Corp. The court was told that making payments to public officials would have provided corporate charges which could destroy the company.

The parent company of The Sun and the now defunct News of the World, including Rupert Murdoch, had worked fully with the police; but as more reporters were arrested, the company became less enthusiastic as the threat of corporate charges emerged.

A lawyer working for News accused the police of attacking the freedom of the press. Another News Corp lawyer described the prospect of a corporate charge as "devastating" and "apocalyptic".

Author Peter Jukes, author of a book covering the earlier hacking trials, has been covering the case in London for various publications, including Independent Australia. He says that News Corporation set up a Managing Standards Committee (MSC) in 2011 to investigate its business practices following the phone-hacking scandal.

Detective Superintendent Mark Kandiah was involved in Operation Weeting that year, which brought a criminal case against former News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson.

He was appointed senior investigating officer on Operation Elveden and said the MSC had been helping police by providing them with information.

“At that stage, it [Operation Elveden] was just confined to police officers,” Dt Supt Kandiah told the court.

Kandiah continued:

Later the MSC began adducing emails that tended to show that the royal correspondent at the News of the World might have been paying royal officers.

When I took over [Operation Elveden] I became aware that the MSC was also conducting a review of other newspapers, such as The Sun.

I knew that they were conducting their own investigation into this paper.

A small amount of material was provided to Operation Elveden from the MSC about one of the defendants, Jamie Pyatt.

Pyatt begins his interview by asserting:

“For a start I have not paid police officers for any information.”

He is then interrogated about various cash payments and procedures around reporting crime, particularly in the Thames Valley.

One Sun memo from 26/04/02 appears to throw in question his earlier statement about not paying police, noting that a payment of £500 to

‘… pay contributor/police officer for assist on Millie body in river article.’

Pyatt again denies he paid police.

From the transcript of the police interview:

PYATT: Again I didn’t write this I have never seen this document I just don’t see it and whether that is a catch or phrase contributor/police officer because it’s a police orientated story I don’t know but I can tell you that was paid to the …… if you go back to the story as it says on page 2 of the Sun we offer stories for cash, now we had a guy ring in who saw a police operation in progress, there were frogmen in the water, the area was all taped off, he had spoken to an officer there and asked what’s it all about and the guy said to him well it’s when they were all looking for Millie DOWLER, so we thought we might have found Millie we found a body of a teen girl he then calls the news desk and says that you pay cash for stories, yes we do pay cash for stories what have you got, I think I know where Millie DOWLER is there is a big police operation on at the moment, where is it, well am I going to get paid, yes you will we will send someone down to come and talk to you, I go down to talk to him find the scene and it all turns out we have got .… if you turn over the page a little bit …. it made a 1-4-5 for us anyway [SNIP]

OFFICER: And that sort of information is worth £500 is it

PYATT: It’s worth a lot more actually

OFFICER: A bargain for you then

PYATT: Yes it was a bargain and we agreed more, if he is giving us a 1-4-5, cash we would have probably if he had asked for it we would have paid him £1,500 for that

OFFICER: I still don’t understand the expression 1-4-5

PYATT: Page 1 and the 4-5 is the spread you have page 1 …

Pyatt goes on to describe his disappointment about being thrown to the wolves by News Corporation management:

PYATT: I would like to say that I spent nearly 25 years with them I have been in a situation in Ibiza, I have been driven out in the middle of a desert by a police officer who put a gun to my head to try and find out a photographer, I have been chased down the Khyber pass by rebels, I have been all across Africa in really difficult situations, I have done so much for the Sun and I do feel a little bit disappointed that I have been accused of this and that they have …… the Sun newspaper sends me out to do things they tell me where to go what to do and for them to then be turning around and saying why not investigate one of our guys he might have done something wrong, I just find I feel basically very let down by them for deciding to do that when at the end of the day I am the person that does what they’re told

…. there is an overall feeling that News International is basically … I don’t know what the word is …… but we just feel that we are being investigated and we haven’t done anything wrong I mean there is quite rightly an investigation into News of the World, allegations have been made of all the phone hacking and a number of people have been arrested but there has been no such allegations made at the Sun, the Times or the Sunday Times yet despite the fact that the police aren’t investigating those newspapers we are all being investigated by our own company, they have brought in a firm of solicitors to go through all our emails and all our stories trying to find stuff on us to hand over to the police and I think most of the guys’ views is hang on a minute the police aren’t investigating we haven’t done anything wrong, if we have done something wrong then by all means come and investigate us but it’s like they are going through everything we have got trying to find things and tossing them out, I think there is a view …. we have done nothing wrong yet we are being investigated by ourselves for stuff that we have been told to do, I mean this is what we do for a living I don’t suddenly decide to go off and do this or do that I am being sent there and I am being told to pay this money it’s not me making this up it’s not coming out of my bank account, the person rings the news desk want’s x for it I am told to go out get the story and do it then they send the money out to me because I am the local person and I pay

The plot thickened further in court as new light was shed on the alleged three million missing News Corp emails News Corp emails, as reported by The Guardian yesterday:

Three million emails at News International are missing after Rebekah Brooks changed the company’s email deletion policy, a jury heard.

Brooks ordered the change in June 2010, which resulted in a large quantity of emails being deleted, including those “covering her entire period as editor of the Sun”, Kingston crown court was told.

In a report on his blog last night, Peter Jukes said that the agreed facts from the hacking trial show that number to be closer to 13 million [Jukes’ emphasis].

161. Between 11/12/2007 and 16/05/2010, a total of 9,244,111 emails were “purged” from the archive. These “purge” events were linked to scheduled maintenance tasks that occurred routinely.

162. In August 2010, a “purge” task was carried out within NI’s email archive, which resulted in the deletion of 1,119,478 emails. This purge was necessitated by a disk failure, which had corrupted data.

163. Any email message deleted or lost for any of the above reasons cannot be retrieved and is no longer available to the parties. This is because the above events pre-date the earliest available back-up tape of NI’s email archive system.

164. In addition to the above losses of data, in September 2010, NI instructed an IT firm, Capax, (contracted in January 2010 to support NI in managing its email archive system) to purge e-mails which were dated before 2005. As a result, on 30 September 2010 4,480,902 emails were deleted from NI’s email archive system. A system back-up dating from August 2010 was identified by NI in September 2011. Therefore: (a) between December 2007 and August 2010, a total of 10,363,589 messages were purged or deleted and are irrecoverable; and (b) in September 2010, a further 4,480,902 messages were purged or deleted of which records suggest that 1.49 million have been recovered.

Disk failure? Corrupted data? It all seems rather convenient.

The question is, did these emails include information that might implicate executives and not just soldier ant journalists and editors at News Corporation.

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