Former Sun reporter John Troup was sacked from council PR job over arrest, court hears

A former Sun reporter was sacked from his council PR job after being arrested, a court heard today.

John Troup, 49, said he was frogmarched out of Uttlesford District Council headquarters when charged by police then summoned to a discplinary meeting two weeks later to be fired. 

He told Kingston Crown Court he has worked as a building labourer and an accounting assistant in a structural engineer's office since his sacking. Troup said he is currently working weekends as a bacon slicer in a butcher's shop.

He spent 19 years at The Sun before being made redundant in 2009 during a purge of the paper's district reporters.

He worked in the communications office at Southend-on-Sea borough council for four years before switching to Uttlesford in January 2013.

But his post as communications manager was short-lived, the court heard, as he got his marching orders when he was charged in the autumn the same year.

"When I informed my employers that I had been charged I was immediately suspended and walked from the building," he said.

"I was then summoned to a disciplinary meeting two week later, following which I was dismissed."

Troup is accused of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office by paying a prison guard at HMP Whitemoor for a story that were published in The Sun in 2007.

He is in the dock with The Sun's former managing editor Graham Dudman, 51, head of news Chris Pharo, 45, deputy news editor Ben O'Driscoll, 38, picture editor John Edwards, 50, and reporter Jamie Pyatt, 51, who all face similar corruption charges.

Troup and his co-defendants had faced claims of an overarching decade-long corruption conspiracy, but the wide-ranging allegation was thrown out mid-way through the trial.

The defendant, originally from Wirral in Merseyside, said he got his first break in journalism while still at school, filing match reports to the Birkenhead News from 1982.

He trained at Darlington College to get his professional qualifications after leaving school, before taking a job at the Wirral News.

In 1987, Troup moved to the Mercury Press Agency, and was one of the first on the scene at the Lockerbie bombing crash site.

He told the court he also covered the Hillsborough disaster, sharing information with other papers after some reporters "got off on the wrong foot" with the families of victims.

The father of two moved to The Sun in 1990 as a northern reporter in the paper's Manchester office, after a period of shifts at the Daily Express.

Asked about the paper's policy of paying to sources of stories, Troup said he handed over cash on just a handful of occasions a year.

"It could be for a variety of reasons, it could be they didn't have a bank account, they were receiving benefits and thought if there was a record they had received money it would affect their benefits, they could be particularly sensitive about the fact they were the source of a story," he said. 

"It was more convenient to me for a payment to be made by cheque through the system.

"I would have to physically collect the cash from somewhere, have to travel to where the tipster was to hand over the money."

William Clegg QC, defending, asked: "Was there ever any culture, that you were aware of, of paying cash to public officials?"

Troup replied: "Not that I was aware of."

Earlier, Catherine Feast, head of communications at Police Federation of England and Wales, said Troup was "absolutely top" of the list of reporters she trusted.

"There are very few journalists I trust implicitly, and John was absolutely top of that list," she said.

"We had to rely on each other and we trusted him implicitly."

Troup said the story he is accused of buying from a serving prison guard was actually penned by one of his colleagues.

It is alleged Troup corrupted a prison guard at HMP Whitemoor for a story that notorious hitman David Croke had hanged himself behind bars.

But the reporter told the court his colleague Simon Hughes was likely to have been the author, while he had been working undercover inside HMRC at the time.

"It's highly unlikely to have been me," he said.

"I think Simon Hughes probably wrote  the story, and I believe Simon Hughes stood the story up, based on the documents."

He pointed out the prison name had been misspelled in the story, a mistake he said  he would never make.

"Misspelling a geographical location on your own patch is something that would meet particular opprobrium," he said.

"I knew what Whitemoor was and I wouldn't have misspelled it."

He told the court the day the story was written, 22 November 2007 he had gone undercover to expose security flaws at the HMRC.

"I was inside the HMRC building in Euston," he said.

"It was a proper Sun story, a proper exclusive story, that got great coverage as a couple of days earlier HMRC was under immense criticism for losing data.

"It was proper public interest journalism."

Troup told the court he appears to have received the information on the prison death and passed it on to Hughes to check the fact and "stand it up".

"I was in the habit of checking my own stories," he said.

Troup said he believes he learned the source was a prison guard in a second call, after the publication of the story, when the contact wanted to be paid.

An email has been shown to the court sent by Dudman to Troup questioning why £300 was being paid in cash for the story.

"The tipster is a Prison Officer at Whitemoor and has requested we pay him in cash," wrote Troup.

"For obvious reasons he doesn't want any record of his name anywhere.

"He claims the Home Office routinely monitor the bank accounts of warders at Cat A jails.

"Not sure whether that's right but in the circumstances it seemed a reasonable request."

Troup said he got the information directly from the source and had no reason to question it.

A request for cash was then approved, to be collected by Troup from a branch of Thomas Cook.

"I don't have a recollection, but I accept from the docket that I must have done," he said.

Troup said he could not remember the story when questioned by police, but assumed he had written it as it was on his patch.

But he had been reminded of his activities that day by an email he sent to Dudman which emerged later.

He said he would have dropped the cash off to "whoever turned up at the point I had arranged to drop the cash off".

Clegg asked: "Did you believe you were doing anything wrong when you took the details of this story from the tipster that resulted in the Hitman Hanging story being published?"

Troup replied: "Certainly not."

Earlier, Bob Satchwell, the executive director of the Society of Editor, told the court Graham Dudman is a "serious journalist" who he had worked with for the last fifteen years.

He said Dudman was instrumental in organising a media blackout when Prince Harry went to war in Afghanistan.

"He is very experienced, a serious journalist, he takes issues seriously for a popular newspaper," he said.

"I would certainly trust him, and I've never doubted his integrity."

Satchwell, when questioned by prosecutor Peter Wright QC, said he was unaware that The Sun had sources alongside Prince Harry in Afghanistan and at Cumbermere Barracks where he wastraining.

He added: "I don't think I ever discussed that because all editors and senior correspondents obviously had their own sources.

"We always knew there would be plenty of information flowing out of Afghanistan, but anything which came out would not be published until after Prince Harry returned."

David Dinsmore, the current editor of The Sun, said he transferred the process of approving expenses to the paper's Glasgow office while he was managing editor.

"It was done to ensure the approval process was carried out with more care and attention, freeing up the managing editor to deal with long term strategy.

"The transfer of the process to Glasgow enabled the managing editor to spend his time more appropriately elsewhere."

Stig Abell, the current managing editor, said he dealt extensively with Dudman while he was working at the Press Complaints Commission.

"Graham would call me frequently to seek advice and guidance on articles about to be published," he said.

"He would ask whether an issue troubling him had sufficient public interest to justify breaches of the code."

He said Dudman had a good reputation at the PCC for handling complaints professionally and swiftly, and recalled a story being spiked when warned that the subject was a suicide risk.

Joanne Butcher, chief executive of the National Council for the training of Journalists, and Richard Parsons, course director at training centre News Associates, supported Dudman as a professional and dedicated journalist.

Pharo, of Wapping, east London, denies four counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.

O'Driscoll, of Windsor, Berkshire, and Dudman, of Brentwood, Essex, both deny three counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.

Edwards, of Hutton, Brentwood, Essex, and Pyatt, of Windsor, deny two counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.

Troup, of Saffron Walden, Essex, denies one charge of misconduct in public office. 

All six defendants have been cleared of an overarching conspiracy to pay public officials, while Pharo was found not guilty of paying a Sandhurst soldier.

The trial continues.

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