Judge expresses 'disappointment' as News UK makes convicted reporter and taxpayer cover prosecution costs

An Old Bailey judge today expressed “considerable disappointment” that News UK has refused to pay the prosecution costs for Sun reporter Anthony France.

France was ordered to pay prosecution legal costs of £34,618 on 29 May after his conviction for aiding and abetting misconduct in public office.

But Judge Timothy Pontius made clear that he felt employer News International (now News UK) should pay because it was responsible for the “structure and system” under which France worked.

Now France will have to pay a portion of the costs himself.

France was given an 18-month suspended sentence and 200 hours community service after The Sun paid more than £22,000 for stories supplied to him by a police source.

France’s lawyer Adrian Keeling QC said: “The hope was that News International, who have funded his legal representation, would stand behind him and pay those costs on his behalf.

"It would have sent a very strong message that they were doing the right thing, especially for an organisation that earns the kind of money they do."

Pontius said: “It was I who expressed that hope.”

Keeling said that despite the judges' wishes being made clear to News International, “the unfortunate position is they will not pay and will not refund the taxpayer”.

He added: “Mr France is disappointed by that because he feels he is put at risk by their failure to do the right thing. They have indicated they are considering disciplinary proceedings against him.”

Keeling noted that France paid his victim surcharge of £100 promptly and has already completed 89 hours of community punishment. And he said that the head of probation is said to have asked France to speak to the permanent under secretary at the Ministry of Justice about the effectiveness of the probation he has done.

Pontius said: “That doesn’t surprise me.”

He added: “It remains a matter of considerable disappointment to me that News International, this defendant’s employer, will not pay the costs of the prosecution…

“After all the company funded his representation…at considerable expense.”

He noted that the practice of paying for stories was encouraged and "routinely followed" by The Sun.

He said: “In these circumstances I’m concerned to learn that News International still refuses to put its hands into its capacious pockets and accept the consequences.”

Judge Pontius said that Timothy Edwards “was an established source of information” before he was "inherited" by France. He said: “There can be no doubt that News International bears some measure of moral responsibility of not legal culpability for the acts of the defendant.”

In view of News UK’s refusal to pay, France was ordered to pay 10 per cent of the prosecution costs – £3,461.

UPDATE:

A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to raise the money on France's behalf.

The founder of the campaign said: "I am hoping that as friends and supporters of Anthony, and other journalists still facing trials, we will band together and send a 'strong message' that we deplore this lack of support and respect for Anthony.

"Aside from the fact that I'm not sure that he has the money to pay, coverage of what we will doing will show Anthony that he is not alone and that as he tried to re-build his life he always has friends he can call on."

News UK also refused to pay the prosecution costs for reporter Nick Parker who was found guilty of handling a stolen mobile phone which was handed in to the paper. He was given a suspended prison sentence and allowed to return to work, but had to pay £7,000 prosecution costs out of his own pocket.

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