A year after Sun features editor Matt Nixson was sacked by News Corp's Management and Standards Committee, the National Union of Journalists has said it is baffled at its treatment of the former high flyer.
Nixson, 38, was dismissed just weeks after the birth of his first child in July last year from his job as features editor of The Sun. He was summarily sacked without notice pay and since then has taken out a High Court action against the Management and Standards Committee and lodged a tribunal claim for unfair dismissal.
While the 18 Sun journalists arrested by the Operation Elveden corruption inquiry, on evidence supplied by the MSC, have all retained their jobs pending the outcome of any possible trial – former News of the World features editor Nixson has been the only individual to be dismissed.
It has since emerged that the evidence which prompted Nixson's dismissal was an email dated 7 March 2009 apparently authorising a payment of £750 for a story about special treatment in prison for Soham murderer Ian Huntley.
NUJ deputy general secretary Barry Fitzpatrick said he was unaware of any evidence that the payment went to a prison officer. And he said even if it had, there would be a strong public-interest defence for a story about one of Britain's most notorious murderers.
Police on Operation Elveden have seen the evidence and have said they are not interested in Nixson.
Fitzpatrick said: 'We think the way he has been treated is quite deplorable. He was one of their most loyal and respected journalists and we think it is extremely shabby."
News International is currently defending the wrongful dismissal case which isn't due to go to court until next February.
Fitzpatrick said: 'It's placed him in suspended animation almost, unable to work as a journalist anywhere else until this thing has been cleared up."
Press Gazette put the NUJ's concerns about the case to a News International spokesman.
They said: 'Numerous discussions have been held with Matt Nixson, but we are not prepared to discuss those publicly."
Nixson, who was on a six-figure salary at The Sun, is understood to have undertaken some work in PR but been unable to get back into national press journalism because of the question his dismissal has placed over his reputation.