NoW reporter defends leak story: 'Public should know about how Jon Venables is getting special treatment'

Exposing the "comfortable" lifestyle of James Bulger's killer behind bars was more important than sparing the feelings of a man who did "despicable things", a News of the World reporter told a court. (Picture: Reuters)

The journalist, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is on trial at the Old Bailey for conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office by using prison officer Scott Chapman as the paid source for two stories on Jon Venables after he was sent back to jail in 2010 for child porn offences.

In a heated exchange under cross-examination, the defendant told jurors it was in the public interest to highlight Venables's special treatment by the prison service.

The journalist, who denied knowing about Chapman's job, said: "This was a public interest story we were writing about Jon Venables, who abducted a two-year-old from a shopping centre, tortured and murdered him.

"He had been taken in by the prison service, given millions of pounds for a new identity, then repeat-offended and the prison service deal with it by making his life as comfortable as possible.

"Public interest. What sort of message is it to send out that it's okay to look at a two-year-old being raped?

"I'm suggesting that the public should know details about how someone like Jon Venables is getting special treatment. It's his fault that he is being held in isolation. He's done some despicable things.

"Did you ever hear of Myra Hindley or Ian Huntley getting that treatment? You only hear about it because it is reported."

Prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC asked if the defendant had considered the sensitivity of the information that went into the stories.

The witness replied: "The stories I have written about – being overweight – had been written by The Sun at the beginning. This was not sensitive information, it was in the public domain with a different angle on it."

Asked if the effect on Venables had been taken into account, the journalist said: "I would have been thinking about public interest more than Jon Venables's feelings about it.

"I would not think it would make his mental state any worse than having to face up to the crimes he has committed."

Judge Charles Wide asked: "How would you know?"

The defendant responded: "You are quite right, I did not have any access to the parole board. But I'm a human being and I made a judgment and if he feels bad about something I write, I don't think even now it was misconduct."

The reporter became emotional at being asked "hypothetical questions" by Rees, saying: "I have got to calm down. Three years I have been waiting, for three years. I was arrested in 2011."

The reporter denies the charge, along with Daily Star Sunday journalist Tom Savage, 37, of south London.

Chapman, 42, and his ex-partner Lynn Gaffney, 40, deny misconduct in a public office.

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