Senior staff and journalists at The Sun showed a "casual indifference" to the security risks that were created by leaks from sources within Broadmoor Hospital, a jury was told today.
- May 27, 2015
- November 19, 2014
- October 30, 2014
A "mole hunt" was conducted at the high security psychiatric hospital to find where the tip-offs which led to exclusive stories in the newspaper were coming from, Kingston Crown Court was told.
Thames Valley district reporter Jamie Pyatt (pictured, Reuters) described Broadmoor as a "gold mine" for stories about notorious inmates such as "Yorkshire Ripper" Peter Sutcliffe, to whose psychiatric report he was allegedly given access.
Pyatt cultivated healthcare assistant Robert Neave, nicknamed "Tipster Bob", as his main Broadmoor source from late 2007, with Sun head of news Chris Pharo and ex-deputy news editor Ben O'Driscoll authorising the payments, the jury heard.
Peter Wright QC, for the prosecution, told the jury of nine men and three women that an expert would tell them that such stories "contribute to the risk and complicate the management of the hospital".
He said: "A breach of the duty of confidentiality breeds mistrust generally, in staff and in patients alike.
"It exposes others to the risk of reprisal, it is corrosive of the necessary trust between patients, staff and treating physicians.
"It exposes staff and fellow patients alike to danger, damaging to the proper, safe and secure running of the secure hospital in which they work and at which these individuals are detained for the continued safety and protection of the public."
Neave was said to be a source for Pyatt from late 2007 to 2010, but others were also paid for stories, which included a picture exclusive of convicted murderer Robert Napper in the hospital's garden.
The court heard that on Boxing Day 2007, Pyatt had warned O'Driscoll and Pharo in an email: "There is a major mole hunt on for my contact and is obvious he cannot have News International payments in his bank account."
Wright said Pyatt had been given access to a psychiatric report on Sutcliffe and "the opportunity to sit down and read it", telling the jury: "You might conclude that that in itself was a most gross breach of trust."
Pharo, Pyatt and O'Driscoll also paid an Army private to track Prince Harry's movements while he received military training at Combermere Barracks in Windsor before and after his first tour of duty, the court heard.
Pyatt allegedly gave the man, who lived in the barracks and worked in the officers' mess, £500 in March 2006 before any stories had been published "to get him totally onside for the future".
The leaks led to exclusives, including one about the Prince urging army bosses to send him back to the front line in Afghanistan following his first tour of duty.
Appearing in August 2008, it carried the headline "I Belong on Front Line: Prince's Plea to Top Brass" and Pharo authorised a payment of £1,000 for it, the court heard.
Six senior Sun staff and journalists are together accused of an "over-arching" plot to commit misconduct in a public office and separately charged with being involved in "sub-conspiracies".
They were arrested as part of Operation Elveden, Scotland Yard's investigation into corrupt payments to public officials.
Pharo faces a total of six charges of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office, while ex-managing editor Graham Dudman and O'Driscoll are each accused of four.
Pyatt and picture editor John Edwards are charged with three counts each and ex-Sun reporter John Troup is accused of two counts.
Pharo, 45, of Sandhurst, Berkshirel, Pyatt, 51, of Windsor, Berkshire, O'Driscoll, 38, also of Windsor, Edwards, 50, of Brentwood, Essex, Dudman, 51, also of Brentwood, and Troup, 49, of Saffron Walden, Essex, deny the charges against them.
Prison officers were also paid for stories about inmates, the court heard.
Dudman allegedly signed off for Troup to pay £300 in relation to a story about an inmate who had killed himself at category A prison HMP Whitemoor in Cambridgeshire in December 2012.
Pharo also approved payment for stories from a source at HMP Swaleside in Kent, the jury was told.
The six defendants were arrested and interviewed from late 2011 to mid-2013, with the exception of Troup, who was not arrested.
When Pyatt was arrested, he told officers that reference to police contacts in his expenses and emails was a "very, very wide term", stating they could be a girlfriend or wife of a police officer.
Asked what the term "public interest" meant to him, he said: "I think it's totally that, if people want to read it, if people buy The Sun for a reason they open the paper and they look at it, that is what they want to read.
"If they don't want to read it, they will read the Daily Mail or The Independent. It's all horses for courses."
He went on to say: "So public interest is what interests our readers, what makes them when they open the paper and say 'That's a great read'. It makes them laugh, it makes them cry."
Wright told the jury: "It is the prosecution's case that the public interest and what interests the public are two different things."
Matthew Tapp, who headed Cambridgeshire Police's media strategy during the Soham murders investigation in 2002, said he was not aware of any "bungs" paid by reporters to officers on the case.
The court has already heard that Dudman is accused of paying unknown City of London Police officers for information about the case in September 2002.
Tapp said he was brought in to run the communications team working on the Operation Fincham investigation into the case because media from all over the world were "running amok" following the disappearance of ten-year-olds Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.
Asked what his reaction would have been if he had found out about a police officer receiving money for information, he replied: "Horror."
Explaining what would have happened to any officer caught taking money for information, he said: "That's not in my gift to answer but, based on my experience, I would expect that individual to have been suspended from all duties.
"If any evidence were available at that point of financial peculiarities I suspect they would have been arrested and interviewed."
The court heard that two policemen working on the case – an exhibits officer and a family liaison officer who was working with Jessica's relatives – had been arrested on suspicion of child pornography offences.
The Sun ran the story but Tapp said that details which appeared in the newspaper would not have come from him or his team because that might have compromised the men's right to a fair trial.
But under cross-examination he admitted it was in the public's interest to know that police officers had been downloading child pornography.
The court also heard that The Sun had agreed not to publish details after learning about Manchester United shirts belonging to the girls being found near Soham Village College, where their murderer, Ian Huntley, worked as a caretaker.
Tapp said he had known Troup through working together in East Anglia and he was a journalist he could trust and who he considered to be honest.