A former public official has been jailed for three and a half years for misconduct in a public office while an ex-News of the World journalist is to wear a tag over payments for stories about a convicted child murderer.
At the sentencing hearing on Thursday of this week His Honour Judge Charles Wide told former prison officer Scott Chapman: “you were never a principled whistle-blower, you were in it for the money,” reminding the defendant that he made over £40,000 in two years from selling information about an inmate, John Venables (who was convicted, when a child, of the killing of toddler James Bulger), including £5,000 in just one weekend. As well as the News of the World, Chapman was paid for inside information by five other newspapers, The Sun, The Sunday Mirror, The People, The Daily Star and the Daily Star Sunday.
Also jailed was Chapman’s ex-partner Lynn Gaffney, who received the newspaper payments into her bank account, who was sentenced to 30 weeks imprisonment.
After Gaffney and Chapman were taken down to the cells a former News of the World journalist, who cannot be named for legal reasons, appeared in the glass-fronted dock. The defence counsel, John Butterfield QC, told the court in mitigation that his client had been unemployed since the closure of the News of the World and their career had been ruined. He also asked Judge Wide to consider that there would be no “deterrent effect” from jailing his client as a series of trials of journalists over payments had led to “a significant effect on the entire media,” as reporters were now aware of the consequences of this conduct.
Sentencing the reporter Judge Wide said that purchasing the stories from Chapman was: “serious offending with no reasonable excuse or justification,” telling the defendant: “it is disappointing you have not been able to admit what you did and what you knew and you persisted in your denials despite overwhelming evidence.” He also rejected defence claims that the journalist had been justified in paying Chapman as her stories were in the public interest saying that the payments happened: “as you had a demanding boss and were trying to get ahead in a very competitive industry.”
However after telling the court that in his view the offending “crossed the custody threshold,” he told the reporter that due to the journalist’s personal circumstances and previous good character he would suspend any prison sentence. Judge Wide added that “as a reminder how close you came to going to prison” the defendant would serve a three month home curfew monitored by an electronic tag. The defendant was also told to serve 150 hours of unpaid work.
The sentencing of the journalist was the second relating to News International this week as on Tuesday a Sun reporter, Nick Parker, was given a suspended sentence for handling stolen goods. Six other Sun journalists are currently on trial at Kingston Crown court and further trials are expected in the New Year.