Jurors in the trial of current and former Sun newspaper staff allegedly involved in paying backhanders to public officials for stories have been told to consider the public interest in obtaining confidential information.
Judge Richard Marks QC said there were several issues which needed to be considered when deciding whether the senior Sun employees could be convicted of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office.
The defendants – former Sun managing editor Graham Dudman, head of news Chris Pharo, ex-deputy news editor Ben O'Driscoll, reporter Jamie Pyatt, picture editor John Edwards, and former reporter John Troup – deny all 14 counts on the indictment at Kingston upon Thames Crown Court, in south west London.
Stories included details about serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, pop star Mick Hucknall and murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, and involved information being sold to the Sun by prison staff, police and nurses.
In his summing up as the three-month case draws to a close, the judge said: "The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) say the (payments to public officials) culture was accepted procedure, known by all defendants and was exemplified by the emails (between the defendants).
"The prosecution say it was manifestly serious misconduct for officers to be disclosing confidential information to be profiting from their position of responsibility to get cash backhanders in addition to their salaries.
"The defence say they were exposing wrongdoing. But the prosecution say this was not the case – they say these public officials were motivated by one thing and one thing only: large cash backhanders."
The judge reminded the nine men and three women on the jury of a defence argument that the CPS case was "rotten to its core" and that the defendants had been "fed to the wolves".
The court heard some sources were paid simply to confirm stories, while others were brought to the newspaper's attention by public officials.
Judge Marks said jurors should consider whether the public official actually provided information which appeared in the press, and whether the defendant in each count was aware of the source's status at the time information was supplied.
Recalling the testimony of Pyatt, a reporter with more than three decades' experience, the judge said he initially lied about where he got his information to protect his sources – something that is considered "sacrosanct" for journalists, he said.
Pyatt (pictured above) previously said a source at Broadmoor hospital was paid for information.
Dudman, of Brentwood in Essex; Pharo, 45, of Sandhurst in Berkshire; and O'Driscoll, 38, of Windsor in Berkshire, each deny three counts of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office.
Edwards, 50, of Brentwood in Essex, and Pyatt, 51, of Windsor, Berkshire, both deny the two counts on which they are charged, while Troupe, 49, of Saffron Walden, Essex, denies the only charge against him.