“That someone is unquestionably a nice guy is not a defence”, said prosecutor Peter Wright QC has he began his closing speech in the trial of Sun journalist Vince Soodin.
The newspaper’s former online news editor, 39, is charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office and it is alleged that he paid a police officer £500 for information about a fox attacking a child in Brighton.
Wright said: “A policeman who is on the take, selling, or stealing, confidential information acquired by him in the course of his duties in hope of making money is committing misconduct of the most grievous kind.
“It amounts to a most serious abuse of the basic trust put in him as a holder of public office.”
He later added: “This isn’t a whistleblower…This public official is driven by greed and the journalist is happy to feed that greed…
“How would you feel if you reported a matter to the police only to find that a police officer had supplied the information, or even sold it, or supplied your personal details or even sold them to the press? How would you feel as a member of the public?
“How would you feel if the public official had accessed your personal details in order to give them to the press? Would you consider such contact to be an abuse of public trust in the policeman?”
Earlier the court had heard from two character witnesses who paid glowing tribute to Soodin.
Public relations executive Jody Thorsby, from Brands2Life, said: “I’m really, really proud to have worked with Vince. Across the seven years I’ve worked as a PR, working with journalists across all international media, I’m hugely proud to say that he’s one of the best journalists that I’ve been able to work with.
“He’s always been very polite, genuine, honest and very talented.”
Talking about how Soodin has coped since being suspended from work, after he was charged, she said: “Whenever he’s spoken about the whole situation he’s always put his family and girlfriend before anyone else. Whatever happens to him, he’s more worried about the family and the ramifications on them.”
Sun TV reporter Jenny Manning has worked with Soodin for six years.
She said: “He worked very long hours and was deeply, deeply passionate about making The Sun’s website the best it can be.
“He dedicated a huge part of his life to working for The Sun. He cares very much about the newspaper and the people working there.”
She said: “He is thoughtful, kind and really one of the most good-hearted people I have ever had the fortune in life to meet.”
But prosecutor Wright said Soodin was “not being honest” when he said it was not clear at the outset that his source was a police officer.
Reading from the first email sent in by “Mike” to The Sun newsdesk, from an anonymous email account, Wright said that the man started it by saying “I work in Sussex police” and that he went on to give the “precise details” of the incident in question [about a child being attacked by a fox].
The email went on to say: “I must remain anonymous because I would lose my job…I’m happy to be contacted if this is an exclusive story that you will pay me for.”
Soodin responded to him, the court heard, by saying: “We are happy to pay you for this exclusive story.”
Wright said: “This is a deliberate act by a man who should have known better, nice guy or no. He allowed himself an error of judgment because the chance of a story, an exclusive, was too good to miss.”
Wright alleged that the source obtained further information for Soodin, including an ex-directory home telephone number, from the police national computer. He said that this included details of a clairvoyant who contacted the police claiming to have information which would assist in the murder investigation into Peter Tobin.
Concluding his 40-minute closing speech, Wright said: “Vince Soodin knew what he was doing. He knew when the first piece of information came his way. He knew when money was raised as a subject. He knew when ‘Mike’ continued to supply him with titbits from the police records.
“He knew when he wrote the figures of 500 and 350 in his notebook, but he didn’t care.
“For him the ends justified the means irrespective of the crime involved. That’s why I invite you to return a verdict of guilty in this case.”
Soodin denies the charge.
The trial continues with the defence closing speech and judge’s summing-up yet to come before the jury retires to consider a verdict.