Former Sun managing editor Graham Dudman was greeted with a round of applause from assembled journalists as he left the Old Bailey a free man this morning.
He was one of four journalists formally acquitted in Court 3 of the Old Bailey of committing misconduct in a public office by paying public officials for stories.
His voice cracked with emotion as he read out a statement (full text below) which described how, over three and a half years on police bail, he was treated “like a murderer or a terrorist”.
Dudman was facing a retrial, alongside Ben O’Discoll (former deputy news editor of The Sun), after a jury failed to reach a verdict on two counts against him after a four-month trial in Kingston.
But he was cleared along with eight other journalists by the CPS a week ago after reviewing their cases in the wake of a Court of Appeal decision quashing the conviction of former News of the World journalist Lucy Panton.
Sun reporter Stephen Moyes, who was accused of paying a prison officer for stories, also had the case against him formally dropped this morning, as did former Mirror journalist Greig Box-Turnbull.
Not-guilty verdicts were entered in all four of the cases.
The Old Bailey heard the cases are continuing against three prison officers accused of buying stories.
At a brief hearing, a lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service said that following a re-review of the cases against the journalists it was decided that it would not be in the public interest to proceed.
Dudman's barrister Oliver Blunt said that his client "welcomes this belated decision to bring this prosecution to a conclusion".
“He has suffered years of mental torment…and he welcomes the opportunity to have his good name restored to him.”
Blunt urged the prosecution to reconsider the decision taken to proceed against his journalist co-defendants in the Kingston trial – Sun head of news Chris Pharo and Sun district reporter Jamie Pyatt.
He said: “It might be considered by some that to continue the prosecution against those defendants represents a rather last-ditch, face-saving roll of the dice in order to continue Operation Elveden which is clearly now in its death throes.
“In our respectful submission, enough is enough and the beast should be put to sleep.”
Stephen Moyes' lawyer told the court that his client also "welcomes the belated decision" to clear him "after years of mental torment awaiting his trial".
In a statement outside court, Dudman said: “After 1,176 days on bail including a four-month trial and two not guilty verdicts, the CPS announced it was dropping the remaining two charges against me by sending my solicitor an email.
“How very different from the way it all started.
“In January 2012, somebody decided I posed such a danger to society that ten police officers raided my home at dawn in front of my terrified wife and young children.
“They confiscated my passport before locking me in a cell, stripping me of any dignity and swabbing my mouth for DNA.
"I was treated like a murderer or a terrorist.
"Not content with subjecting me to that humiliation, I was left in limbo for 19 months on bail without being charged.
"When I was charged it took more than a year before my case came to court.
"This has been a long and frightening ordeal. I am pleased to leave the Old Bailey today an innocent man with my good character intact.
"I am of course enormously grateful to my family, friends and colleagues who stood by me through the darkest days of this unspeakable experience.
"My wife Leah, my mum Elaine and sister Sarah have been incredible and in Roger and Carol Watkins I’m lucky to have the finest father and mother-in-law anyone could wish for.
"I also want to thank my superb legal team. My solicitor Mark Abbott from Blaiser Mills and from Furnival Chambers David Miller and Oliver Blunt QC. Without their collective brilliance, this outcome could have been very different.
"A truly grotesque amount of taxpayers' money has been spent on Operation Elveden.
"Thanks to a combination of a ruling from the Lord Chief Justice and countless jury verdicts, it has now been exposed for what it is – a politically motivated witch hunt against tabloid journalism.
"How can it possibly be right the squad investigating journalists for publishing true stories in the public interest was allocated twice the number of detectives than a murder squad?
"Somebody somewhere got their priorities horribly wrong.
"While today's hearing marks the end of the process for me, three of my colleagues from The Sun still face trials and my thoughts today are with them and their families.
"I’m now looking forward to getting on with the rest of my life and hope that journalism – a vital part of any democracy – is never again subjected to such an appalling attack."