Sun reporter Anthony France was 'given' police contact and told: 'I've spoken to a lawyer and it's fine'

A Sun reporter told of his struggles against a "homophobic bully" boss as he launched a defence in his trial for paying an anti-terror police officer at Heathrow for tips.

Anthony France, 41, is accused at the Old Bailey of cultivating a corrupt relationship with PC Timothy Edwards over four years.

While working at the airport in SO15 Counter Terrorism Command, Pc Edwards, 49, allegedly sold 38 stories and titbits of information to the journalist in exchange for more than £22,000.

Giving evidence, France told jurors he never thought paying a source – including Edwards – for stories might be wrong or against the law.

Asked what he would have done if he thought talking to Edwards might be illegal, he said: "I would never have got involved with it.

"I would have told him to get lost. I'm a man of good character not involved in crime."

The court heard how Edwards was "given" to France as a source. After they met at a pub in 2008, he was told by a colleague: "I've spoken to a lawyer and it's fine," he said.

Asked what Edwards' employers might have done if they had found out, France said: "I suspected they might not be happy and might put him through a disciplinary process.

"I thought with the public interest involved that the worst that might happen was he might be sacked. It never came to my mind that anybody considered it criminal."

The court heard while working as a Sun crime reporter between 2006 and 2010, he had been involved in numerous campaigns involving victims of crime and even worked undercover.

He told jurors: "We do a lot of campaigning. Very much on the crimedesk a lot of our campaigning is taking the concerns and cares of people who have been a victim of crime and taking them to the policymakers, writing stories in the paper, campaigning on those issues."

For example, he did a lot of work with the father of young murder victim Damilola Taylor, he said.

But in 2010, France had his title of crime reporter taken away by a boss at The Sun who he described as a "homophobic bully".

He said as a black gay man, it was particularly challenging working for the senior journalist, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

France told the jury: "I could stick up for myself but then there were attempts by him to get me out of the newspaper."

Asked by his barrister Adrian Keeling QC why he was determined to stay, France replied: "Because crime reporting is my life."

France, from Watford, denies the charge of aiding and abetting Edwards to commit misconduct in a public office between March 2008 and July 2011.

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow when France will continue giving evidence.

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