'The long-term practice of this company to pay public officials was illegal...We are being made scapegoats'

Arrested Sun journalists have spoken of their shock at being arrested under an obscure act of Parliament which no-one at the company had ever spoken of.

At least 20 Sun journalists have been arrested over alleged payments to public officials, with eight so far facing trial.

In a meeting with News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch in March this year journalists spoke of their shock at being arrested under the 1906 Prevention of Corruption Act. The full transcript of the meeting has been published by the Exaro investigative journalism website.

One Sun staffer at the meeting told Murdoch: "The first time I heard about the 1906 Misconduct Act was when I was arrested. No one had ever told me about this in this company…

“So completely oblivious to the fact that the long-term practice of this company to pay public officials was illegal, my job description meant that as a result of that, it came directly through my particular department… You can understand how we all feel that we are effectively being made scapegoats…”

Murdoch replied: “And one of those high-priced lawyers would say it’s our fault, but that situation existed at every newspaper in Fleet Street.”

Murdoch said that former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord MacDonald, who briefly worked as an advisor for News Corp in 2011, had said to him that “he knew that on Fleet Street there were payments made, and he decided not to go after it because it was all too petty – and too complicated. The idea that cops then started coming after you, kick you out of bed, and our families, at six in the morning is unbelievable.”

Graham Dudman said to Murdoch that the police had no intention of coming after The Sun until News Corp’s Management and Standards Committee handed over “mountains and mountains of evidence connected with the people in this room", he said:"Why did they do it?”

Murdoch said: “Bcause it was mistake, I think. But in that atmosphere, at that time, we said, ‘look we’re an open book, we will show you everything..”

One journalist complained that before being being arrested, Sun staff were invited to take part in longer interviews with company lawyers Linklaters who said they “just wanted to get a feel for how the newspaper was put together".

They said that "large chunks of the interviews we gave to Linklaters were produced to us in the police station on our arrest".

Another journalist complained that they had been presented by police with photocopies of their contacts book, taken from their desk at work. They said: “This company was complicit in giving that to them by the actions of the MSC.”

Murdoch said that in recent months to that point (March) the company had changed tack and insisted that police obtain court orders for evidence.

Murdoch: “They said, we will – and of course, it never happened.”

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