Nobody at The Sun queried payments being made to public officials, a Sun reporter, Jamie Pyatt, told a court today.
Cross-examined at The Sun corruption trial, Mr Pyatt agreed that it was common knowledge inside Britain’s biggest newspaper that it handed cash to public officials in return for supplying information.
No executive had ever upbraided him for making the payments, Mr Pyatt said.
He and five other past and present journalists at The Sun are on trial at Kingston Crown Court accused of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office.
Under cross-examination from Peter Wright QC, for the Crown, Mr Pyatt agreed that he told executives that the money was going to police officers, Army contacts and Broadmoor psychiatric hospital contacts.
Mr Wright asked: “Did anybody at The Sun ever ring you up asking what are you doing asking for a payment for a public official?”
Mr Pyatt said it was well known the paper paid cash for stories.
Mr Wright pressed: “But did anybody point out to you that we don’t pay public officials cash for stories?”
The reporter replied: “No.”
“And it was common knowledge among the journalists?” asked the prosecutor.
Mr Pyatt – the Thames Valley reporter – told the court: “We all knew that public officials were being paid; I accept that.”
“I made no attempt to hide it. I thought it was OK if they [the public official] had approached the paper. And yes, I fully accept they were paid.”
Mr Wright asked: “It was condoned by others, wasn’t it?
The reporter, who worked out of an office in his home in Windsor, said he wasn’t in the Sun offices in Wapping, London.
Mr Wright again pressed: “Nobody ever told you: You can’t do this”?
Mr Pyatt replied: “No….They knew exactly who they were dealing with.”
He agreed with the prosecutor that The Sun’s news editor, Chris Pharo, and deputy news editor, Ben O’Driscoll, never refused to make any of the cash payments he requested, though sometimes they lowered the amounts.
Last week Mr Pharo told the court that he tended to agree to the payments requested by his journalists because he did not want to fall out with his reporters, and preferred to take “the line of least resistance.”
Asked whether Mr Pharo was a strong character, Mr Pyatt replied: “Quite a strong personality.”
Intervening, Judge Richard Marks asked: “His decision was final?”, to which Mr Pyatt replied: “Yes.”
Mr Wright went on: “He [Mr Pharo] didn’t get to where he has at The Sun by just agreeing to everything that his journalists put to him?”
Mr Pyatt said that his boss’ talent had been responsible for him rising through the rank of the paper.
The prosecutor asked: “Over these many years of your dealing with Mr Pharo did you get the impression he was a man who preferred the line of least resistance?”, to which Mr Pharo replied: “Not in his dealings with me.”
He said the issue of paying public officials had not come up with Rebekah Brooks, or with any other editor, adding: “They were too far up the level for me.”
Mr Wright suggested paying police officers and others was simply not an issue, saying: “It was common knowledge wasn’t it, that The Sun would pay public officials for information?”
Mr Pyatt told the court: “If the story was true and judged to be in the public interest then yes, we would pay.”