Corporate Culture and a Little-Known Law the Real Culprits in Sun Court Fiasco

The Evening Standard (London, England), March 25, 2015 | Go to article overview

Corporate Culture and a Little-Known Law the Real Culprits in Sun Court Fiasco


Byline: Roy Greenslade media analysis

IT IS time to take stock of the treatment meted out to Sun journalists. Four of them were acquitted by a jury last week of charges that relate to payments to public officials.

In a separate case, a former News of the World and Sun reporter was found guilty of a similar offence. Some trials are still taking place. Some journalists are facing retrials.

I have no wish to prejudice current and future hearings, so I am being extremely careful in what I say. But it would be an inhibition of press freedom if I was unable to record my deep concern about all the cases resulting from the Metropolitan police's Operation Elveden, which resulted in the arrest of scores of people after the Met was handed emails by the Sun's publisher -- News Corporation, headed by Rupert Murdoch (below) -- in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.

Let's get one thing straight.

There is no link whatsoever between hacking -- the interception of mobile phone voicemail messages -- and payments made to public officials in return for information.

The former activity was utterly indefensible and confined to a small number of reporters working for two publishers. The latter was a method of obtaining stories routinely employed by every popular newspaper for half a century and more.

It was so uncontroversial that the law under which Sun journalists were charged was unknown to them. It did not feature in the legal textbook they studied while learning their trade.

Apparently, it did not form any part of the in-house training at their newspapers.

Ignorance of the law is certainly no defence. But whose ignorance is at fault here? The journalists, or the company that employed them and funded the payments they made to their sources? I think the Met and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) took the easy option by charging the journalists. …

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