Dudman defence: 'Massive public interest' in arrest of two Soham murder inquiry detectives on child pornography allegations

The arrest of two Soham murder inquiry detectives on child pornography allegations was of "massive public interest", the Sun six trial was told today.

Oliver Blunt QC is defending managing editor Graham Dudman (pictured, Reuters), who is accused of paying a City of London police officer for tips on the hunt for schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

He allegedly entertained his source at restaurants in central London and Essex to be leaked the names of the officers arrested, including one who was the family liaison to the Chapman family.

But Blunt said the revelation of their arrests was firmly in the public interest, as the disappearance of the two girls and the desire for justice had "gripped the nation".

"My youngest daughter was the same age as them when they disappeared," he told jurors.

"Every parent was absolutely sucked in by this horrific drama as it unfolded.

"In the days which followed, the disappearance of these two girls, the nation did indeed follow the desperate search to try and find them.

"There was a sense of total desolation when their bodies were found days later, dumped and defiled by the perpetrator Ian Huntley."

He said the public deserved to know that the integrity of the police investigation had not been damaged by the arrests of the officers.

"The reason for these arrests and the facts of possible consequences was fundamentally in the public interest," he said.

"It was of massive public interest.

"The public were entitled to be reassured not only with regard to the welfare of the Chapman family but also the integrity of the investigation.

"The public were entitled to be reassured that an independent police force was investigating the two officers and an independent force was checking the continuity of the exhibits."

Blunt said the expenses claims submitted by Dudman under the guise of entertaining his source were actually for family takeaways and a dinner out at Nando's in Bluewater shopping centre.

"This represented no more than the expenses culture that existed at the time," he said.

"Could anyone realistically suggest you would be taking a source to the takeaway around the corner – it is perhaps stretching credulity."

Blunt said the two charges against Dudman of conspiring with other journalists to pay an HMP Whitemoor prison guard and Broadmoor healthcare worker Robert Neave actually could be reduced to just two days.

"It boils down to two days in seven years," he said.

"It's the emails sent to Mr Pyatt and Mr Troup, asking why are we paying cash for stories and then the rubber stamping of the payment.

"That's it – I dare anybody to challenge me on it."

He said the suggestion that his emails asking for explanation of the cash payments are evidence of his involvement is "frankly risible".

Blunt also made the point that Dudman had no contact with either of the sources being paid.

Dudman is linked to Neave through the story that Rachel Nickell's killer was on suicide watch, while he is accused of agreeing to pay Troup's source on the suicide of a hitman inside prison.

Blunt said the expense claims that Dudman signed off are irrelevant to the case, and there is actually a "paucity of evidence" on the charges against him.

The trial continues.

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