Sun reporter: I was never told paying public official against the law, every story was okayed by lawyers

A Sun reporter today denied plotting with a corrupt police officer when he sent a "stock" reply to a tip sent to the tabloid about a fox attack.

Vince Soodin, 39, is on trial at the Old Bailey accused of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office by paying Sussex Police Sergeant James Bowes £500 to be his stooge.

Giving evidence in his defence, Soodin told jurors how he was sifting through hundreds of emails which had been sent to the tabloid's newsdesk when he came across one from the officer.

The message caught his eye for a story in the "public interest" because it was about a fox biting a three-year-old boy at a school in Brighton.

"Immediately I thought it might be a newsworthy story of public interest because in June twin girls had been attacked by a fox in Hackney and it was a massive story covered by all the newspapers," Soodin told the jury.

"A fox attacking a child – I think mums and dads across the country would be interested in that."

In his email of Saturday, 19 June, 2010, the officer, who called himself Mike, said he wanted to remain anonymous and asked for money in return for the information.

William Harbage QC, defending Soodin, asked his client asked: "The fact there was a reference to police and loss of job, what was your reaction to that? Did it ring any alarm bells?"

Soodin replied: "Not at the time. The story was public interest. I was more interested in the information."

He said his email response a couple of hours later to say the newspaper was "happy to pay for the story" was a pre-prepared "stock response" he often used.

Harbage: "Had you personally done anything at all to encourage the person Mike who we now know is James Bowes to email the Sun with that information?"

Soodin: "No, not at all. He has emailed in to the Sun newsdesk not to me. "

Harbage: "Had there been any agreement between you to divulge confidential information?"

Soodin: "No, not at all."

Earlier, Soodin told the jury he was never told during his training that paying a public official was against the law.

And "every single story" published by The Sun was checked by lawyers first, he said.

Harbage said: "Did you realise you could be breaking the law if you were receiving information from a public official?"

Soodin replied: "No, not at all."

He added that said he considered himself a junior reporter at the Sun at the time of the alleged offence, in 2010.

Since he was charged in 2013, he had been suspended from his job, he said: "It has been one of the hardest things. I had been enjoying a job and working helps deal with this ordeal."

He told jurors he was born in Lewisham, south London, to Mauritian parents who emigrated to Britain in the 1960s.

After graduating from Bristol University, he trained to be a reporter and cut his teeth at the Bucks Free Press, before becoming a London court reporter, eventually joining The Sun in 2006.

Bowes, 31, has previously admitted misconduct in a public office but Soodin, of Greenwich, south east London, denies any wrongdoing.

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