The Old Bailey was told yesterday how a Fleet Street reporter who has been “at the top of his game" for 50 years has been placed on trial for simply doing his job.
Sun chief reporter John Kay, 71, has been in the dock at the Old Bailey for two months accused of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office by paying government employees for stories.
Kay is on trial along side Sun executive edtir Fergus Shanahan, royal editor Duncan Larcombe and deputy editor Geoff Webster.
Defence QC Trevor Burke yesterday told the jury how the stories involved in the case against Kay included: a spate of suicides at Deepcut army barracks, shortages of flak jackets for combat troops and the resignation of an army bomb disposal chief amid concerns about resources.
Burke said: “Despite all his achievements and the contribution he’s made he finds himself, at 71 years of age, in the dock at the Old Bailey – a venue normally reserved for murderers.
“And he’s on trial for what? No more, no less than simply doing his job – period.”
He asked the jury to: “Please recognise how disturbing it is that journalists who only ever report the news accurately, honestly and fearlessly now find themselves prosecuted in our criminal courts.
“Historically this has always been the hallmark of oppressive regimes that seek to restrict free speech, crush the press and silence open debate. But be in no doubt — it is exactly what is happening right here, right now.”
Burke said it was "an absolute outrage" that Kay should be prosecuted over revealing a shortage of flak jackets for soldiers fighting in Iraq.
He said: “Whatever the risks to himself, John Kay saw it as his fundamental duty to hold the powerful to account and speak up for those who have no voice.
“If John Kay and his profession do not do it on your behalf, who will?
“If he doesn’t, you won’t read about it. And don’t you think you are entitled to read about it?”