Sun news editor Brandon Malinsky in court over payments to George Michael prison officer

A Sun news editor accused over allegations that a prison officer was paid for tips about pop star George Michael (pictured, Reuters) while he was behind bars has told a court he relied on his "moral compass" to decide who he should deal with.

Brandon Malinsky, 50, is on trial at the Old Bailey charged with conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office between September 2010 and March 2011.

As night news editor, he exchanged emails with reporter and co-defendant Neil Millard about a contact at Pentonville Prison where Michael was being held, the court heard.

Malinsky, from north London, denied having direct dealings with the officer, Reggie Nunkoo, or that having anything to do with authorising cash payments of hundreds of pounds to him.

He told jurors that during his legal training, the issue of public officials never arose and he was never given any guidance at The Sun about who could be paid.

But he said he would not consider it right to pay a police officer for a story because they were involved in the criminal justice system.

Prosecutor Stuart Biggs questioned him about his evidence that he might have spoken to a prison officer during his career, asking: "You would not think there was anything wrong with that?"

Malinsky replied: "Speaking to a prison officer? I would not think that at the time. You would use your own moral compass to decide who you should or shouldn't speak to. Personally, I would not have dealt with a police officer."

He added: "There was no training. You based it on your own moral guidance."

The witness said he would have "barely glanced" at Millard's subsequent e-mail about what to pay the prison source who had told him that Michael had burst into tears in his cell.

On whether his moral compass would find this incident "particularly ugly", Biggs pressed: "The officer goes into the cell carrying out his checks, finds this prisoner to be crying, goes in and speaks to him, then he either goes on the phone to The Sun and sells the information, or tells someone in the staff room."

Malinsky said: "This story has already appeared. I'm not interested in the detail so it's nothing to do with me."

He said he was under personal pressure at the time of the alleged offence because his wife was suffering from breast cancer, and the night before he was charged last year doctors discovered it had returned.

Malinsky and Millard, 33, from south Croydon, deny conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office alongside Sun reporter Tom Wells, 34, of south-east London, ex-Mirror reporter Graham Brough, 54, of south-west London, and ex-immigration centre officer Mark Blake. Blake additionally denies misconduct in a public office.

The trial continues.

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