Sun's Jamie Pyatt: 'We are being investigated by our own company... even though we have been told what to do' - Press Gazette

Sun's Jamie Pyatt: 'We are being investigated by our own company... even though we have been told what to do'

The Sun's Jamie Pyatt (pictured, Reuters) told a court he felt a "little bit let down" after he was investigated by his own company for alleged payments to police officers.

The 51-year-old reporter said he had a close relationship with police press officers and that there was "no slipping through back doors". 

Kingston Crown Court heard that Pyatt convinced anti-press police officers they could trust his professionalism.

Pyatt, who has more than 25 years' experience with The Sun, was detained at Uxbridge police station on 4 November 2011 and interviewed under caution.

Jurors were read a number of transcripts from interviews with Pyatt following his arrest. The court heard from Detective Constable Tom Hillier, who took part in a number of interviews with Pyatt following his arrest.

Pyatt said: "I have done so much for The Sun. I do feel a little bit disappointed that I have been accused of this [making corrupt payments].

"I feel a little bit let down, because I am the person who does what they are told."

Pyatt said he had been sent across deserts in Africa and to Ibiza with police on behalf of the newspaper.

He described staff at the newspaper as feeling under investigation "by their own".

"We feel we are being investigated and we have not done anything wrong," Pyatt told police.

"There have been no such allegations [of wrongdoing] made against The Sun, The Times, The Sunday Times.

"We are being investigated by our own company… even though we have been told what to do.

"We go out and do what we are told. If they send me somewhere I might not want to go, but I will do it."

Pyatt denied ever paying police officers for information, saying that it "just wouldn't happen".

He questioned the idea of a journalist approaching a police officer with a payment, claiming it would risk both their career and pension.

Pyatt said emails recovered during the investigation referring to "police contacts" did not mean police officers.

Many of the alleged payment requests using the words "police contact" were drafted by other workers at The Sun on behalf of Pyatt, jurors heard.

Pyatt said he had not seen many of the payment request forms adduced by police.

Pyatt described himself as having a close working relationship with police press officers with no "slipping through back doors".

Both parties would do favours for the other – if police needed publicity The Sun would help out, it is said.

Asked about paying story "contributors" from various Thomas Cook branches, Pyatt said: "This means I have requested a payment for £500.

"It is common for it to be picked up. We pay cash for stories – we invite readers to ring up for cash.

"If they want to be paid in cash then so be it, it says in the paper.

"They will ring up and ask what it's worth.

"We don't just give them the money, we see whether it works. We won't just give them £500.

"It depends what it's about. If it's about a footballer bonking or a punchup at a nightclub, then yes.

"If they are offering a story about a murder I will find out who they [the victim] are, what their kids' names are.

"I ring up the press office and asked, 'are you investigating so and so?'

"They will confirm but not give any names, but the neighbours have already given us the names.

"We will go around and ask other neighbours, and then we can verify it's the right names.

"We write all the information down, talk to the neighbours, and then talk to the press office.

"It's a two-way thing, providing it doesn't affect the police operation.

"It's a trust thing."

Pyatt said The Sun wouldn't publish certain information if asked not to by the police.

"If you don't play by the rules, the press office sorts you out very quickly," he said.

"They know they can ring me up and talk about it, 'I know you know this and that, but don't put it in the paper'.

"I won't do it because the next time they won't help me."

Pyatt described there being a "big friendship" between police and journalists, and that he was friends with many police officers.

He said it was important police and journalists worked together, and that he "very much doubted" officers would willingly divulge information to journalists they didn't know.

Jurors heard that every barman and barmaid in Windsor [Pyatt's patch] knew Pyatt, and that he was always the first to break stories in his district.

He said it was "rare" another journalist would beat him to a story.

Pyatt described how The Sun worked closely with police investigating the murder of 17-year-old student Hannah Foster in 2003.

Pyatt said he travelled with senior policeman to India to assist with the investigation, and that The Sun put up half of a 500,000-rupee ransom for the main.

He explained senior investigating officer Alan Betts was suspicious of the media prior to the investigation, but following The Sun's help a good working relationship had been formed.

"You have got to have that trust between each other, built up over 20 years," Pyatt said.

"It's a very, very good working relationship.

"When we went there he was notoriously anti-press. Once we had been together for a couple of days and he saw it work… by the end of it it worked brilliantly.

"We got our man, they [the police] got him locked up, we got him on the front page."

Asked why he wasn't always familiar with tipsters The Sun was paying for information, Pyatt said: "As far as we are concerned, we are working to such a tight deadline… the last thing I am interested in is every cough and spit about who this bloke is."

Pyatt said that often "police sources" in The Sun's stories were quotes attributed from non-police contacts.

"We would not have a senior police officer, we have to make our stories look better than the other papers.

"It's a euphemism.

"It's the way journalists work, we make it look like we are so inside the story.

"It looks good in the newspaper that you have got an inside line.

"You dress it up – the information that's already in the public domain – to make it look a lot stronger than what we have already got."

Pyatt said that if you looked through all the newspapers they would all be using the same information.

A "contributor" would have likely provided the quote,  which was then attributed to a non-existent "police source".

Pyatt said that The Sun would have paid between £3,000 and £3,500 to the tipster who provided The Sun with legitimate information about Milly Dowler.

He then described himself as "happiest being out on the road".

Jurors heard that all the defendants were of good character with no previous convictions.

Editors and reporters at Britain's best-selling tabloid newspaper paid tens of thousands of pounds to contacts in the police, prisons, and military to land exclusive stories, it is said.

Pyatt is accused with head of news Chris Pharo, 45, reporter Ben O'Driscoll, 38, and managing editor Graham Dudman, 51, John Troup, 49, and picture editor John Edwards, 50, of paying for confidential information at The Sun between 2002 and 2011.

The six defendants are accused of a decade-long campaign of payments to police officers, prison guards, healthcare workers in Broadmoor Hospital, and serving soldiers.

Pharo, of Wapping, east London, denies six counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.

O'Driscoll, of Windsor, Berkshire, and Dudman, of Brentwood, Essex, both deny four counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.

Edwards, of Brentwood, Essex, and Pyatt, of Windsor, deny three counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.

Troup, of Saffron Walden, Essex, denies two counts of misconduct in public office.

The trial continues.



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