Former Sun managing editor Graham Dudman has left the paper four months after he was acquitted of illegally paying public officials for stories.
He was one of 22 Sun journalists charged with criminal offences over the last four years as a result of various police investigations launched since 2011.
So far, only two of the 22 have been convicted – Anthony France and Nick Parker – with two awaiting a retrial.
Dudman, 52, joined The Sun in 1990 and has held a variety of jobs including news reporter, Moscow correspondent, news editor, head of news, head of features and managing editor.
He spent several years on the editing rota and in 2011 became group editorial development director across The Times, Sunday Times, Sun and News of the World.
He joins former Sun picture editor John Edwards in deciding to leave the paper rather than returning to work after lengthy periods of suspension pending the outcome of their trials.
Suspended Sun staff who have returned to work include Tom Wells, Stephen Moyes, Vince Soodin and Nick Parker. A number are understood to be still considering their options.
Dudman was arrested in January 2012 in a dawn raid by ten officers from Operation Elveden who searched his house and took him into custody in front of his wife and two young children.
He was put in a cell at Ilford police station and spent 19 months on bail before being charged in August 2013 with conspiracy to cause misconduct in public office. On the day he was charged, he was suspended by News UK.
In October 2014 he faced trial alongside five Sun colleagues at Kingston Crown Court.
Jurors heard Dudman described as a “responsible journalist” respected across Fleet Street with 30 years’ experience who would “never reveal” the identity of a source.
In common with most other charged Sun journalists, Dudman was arrested after News Corporation’s Management Standards Committee handed police internal emails and documents relating to payments for stories.
At trial his lawyer claimed that News International (now News UK) had selectively released documents to police incriminating staff in order to stave off the threat of a corporate prosecution.
The Crown Prosecution Service is currently considering whether to prosecute News International/ News UK after receiving a file from the Met Police.
Those who gave evidence on behalf of Dudman at trial included Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell, chief executive of the NCTJ Joanne Butcher and Sun editor David Dinsmore.
At the end of the four-month trial, Dudman was cleared of two of the four counts against him and was due to face a retrial at the Old Bailey later this month. But in April, the Crown Prosecution Service announced it was dropping the charges against Dudman (and eight other journalists) after a review of the way it had been interpreting the common law offence of misconduct in public office.
News UK lifted Dudman’s suspension, but he did not return to work.
He said: “I have been privileged to work alongside some of the finest journalists in the profession at The Sun. I loved every moment of my time there and working in HR was a fantastic learning curve meeting talented people across the business.
“As I leave, my thoughts are with two Sun colleagues as they prepare for their retrial later this month. Please continue to offer them both as much support as possible.
“I have previously thanked my team of lawyers but would also like to pay tribute to the work done on my behalf by Paul Gilroy QC, a brilliant employment lawyer whose advice and guidance has been superb.”
During his two-year suspension from work Dudman trained NCTJ students on a voluntary basis at the News Associates training centre in Wimbledon. He sits on the board of the Society of Editors and is a member of the NCTJ’s Accreditation Board.
He said: “There are some fantastic people at News UK who have been incredibly supportive during the past three and a half years. I won’t embarrass them by naming them but they know who they are.
“The past three years have been an incredibly difficult time and the right thing for me and my family is to now move on to a fresh start. Nothing stays the same forever and all good things come to an end.
“I wish The Sun and everyone working there all success for the future. The paper has been looking great recently breaking what look like several award-winning stories.
“I am looking forward to reentering the world of work after such a long break.”