Former prison officer pleads guilty to misconduct charge after selling 46 stories to press for £40,000

A former prison officer has pleaded guilty to selling stories to tabloid newspapers about James Bulger killer Jon Venables – despite having an earlier conviction quashed in the Court of Appeal.

Scott Chapman, 44, of Corby, Northamptonshire, was due for retrial at the Old Bailey but at the 11th hour admitted a charge of misconduct in a public office between 1 March 2010 20 and June 2011.

Chapman was paid £40,000 for 46 articles by a range of newspapers, including the News of the World, when he was working Woodhill prison.

Following a trial at the Old Bailey last year, he was convicted, along with former News of the World reporter Lucy Panton and his ex-partner, Lynn Gaffney, and jailed for three-and-a-half years.

The Court of Appeal quashed the convictions in the spring because the trial judge "misdirected" the jury.

While Panton and Gaffney's cases were later dropped following a Crown Prosecution Service review, Chapman was ordered to face a new trial.

On Monday, Chapman asked for an indication from Judge Richard Marks QC of the maximum sentence if he admitted the charge.

The judge told him he could reduce the jail term to a maximum of two-and-a-half years.

He said: "This is obviously a quite serious case of cases of this sort because there are 46 articles involved and a not insubstantial amount of pay of £40,000.

"Against that background, taking account of everything I have read, plainly it would inevitably follow the defendant would have to be returned to custody.

"The maximum sentence which I am asked to indicate in my judgment would be in the order of two-and-a-half years."

The court heard the three-and-a-half months Chapman has already served would count towards the new sentence, which will now be handed down later.

More than 30 public officials have been convicted of misconduct in a public office after selling stories to newspapers.

Most were arrested as a result of information disclosed to police by News Corp. But Mirror publisher Trinity Mirror is also understood to have shared information with prosecutors.

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