A prison officer from top security HMP Belmarsh made nearly £20,000 from leaking information about "notorious" inmates including So Solid Crew rapper Megaman to the Daily Mirror, a court was told today.
Grant Pizzey, 50, is on trial at the Old Bailey charged with committing misconduct in public office between December 1, 2005, and January 31, 2012. His wife, Desra Reilly, 48, is accused of aiding and abetting him.
Using Reilly, his then girlfriend, as a go-between, Pizzey passed tips about prison security as well as some of its more famous inmates to Mirror reporter Greig Box Turnbull, the jury was told by Julian Christopher QC, prosecuting.
Reilly first contacted both The Sun and the Canary Wharf-based Daily Mirror (offices pictured) in December 2005 with a story about So Solid Crew rapper Dwayne Vincent, stage name Megaman, being found with a mobile phone after he was attacked in Belmarsh.
In a message to The Sun, she wrote: "I have information regarding a security lapse at Belmarsh. Anyone interested?"
Sun journalist James Clothier got back to her, only to be told that the Mirror had been first, the court heard.
Reilly allegedly told Clothier that she did not know how much she would be paid by the Mirror and that it would depend on who she dealt with in future.
As well as the "exclusive" about Megaman, she handed over another tip to the Mirror about a smuggled pen gun security scare at Belmarsh, Mr Christopher said.
Clothier responded by promising to "top any offer for stories, particularly from the Daily Mirror", jurors were told.
But Reilly went on to receive cheques and transfers to her bank account from the Mirror on 47 separate occasions.
Christopher said some payments were for stories while others were to keep the source "on side" and encourage more tips in the future.
The relationship developed to the point where Box Turnbull could use Pizzey to confirm information he had heard elsewhere, such as whether Jon Venables was at Belmarsh.
"It is a case about a corrupt relationship between a prison officer and a journalist at the Daily Mirror and a relationship that went on over a period over six years from the end of 2005 up to early 2012 which involved the leaking of information about the prison and about its prisoners for which the prison officer was paid just under £20,000," he told the jury.
Pizzey, who worked as a prison officer at Belmarsh in south east London from 2000, was aware he was not allowed to speak to the press, which was why he used Reilly, a railway cafe worker, as the contact, the court heard.
In initial negotiations with the two tabloids, Christopher said, Reilly wrote: "My source is in a difficult position and wants to know if the financial position is worth the risk."
When the couple were arrested in July 2012, they declined to answer questions in police interview.
Christopher suggested that a key issue in the case was whether this was deliberate misconduct, or whether Reilly alone made money by passing on information she picked up from "casual conversations" with her partner.
He told jurors they could reject this argument because of the amount of detailed information she had and the "small but telling" indications in her emails that they were working together.
Information provided to Box Turnbull included documents which must have come from the prison, such as a canteen price list, he said.
In one email Box Turnbull asked specifically when would be a good time for him to ring, and Reilly told him when Pizzey would be back.
The pair, from Widecombe Road, Eltham, south east London, deny wrongdoing.