By Martin Hickman
Nothing changed at Rupert Murdoch’s biggest newspaper after its editor told MPs that it made payments to police, a court heard yesterday.
Sun news editor Chris Pharo agreed there were no reforms or any other changes made at the paper after Rebekah Brooks made her comment to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee in 2003.
Giving evidence at his trial for agreeing illegal payments to public officials, Mr Pharo was asked about the Sun’s relationship with the police.
The issue was raised at Kingston Crown Court by Richard Kovalesky QC, representing Sun reporter Jamie Pyatt, on trial alongside Mr Pharo.
Mr Pharo, who has worked for the Sun for 25 years, said that “on many occasions” the paper had left out information in stories at the request of the police.
He added that the Sun also “frequently assisted” police investigations.
There was nothing unusual about the paper receiving help from police contacts, he said.
Judge Richard Marks asked: “Anything wrong with giving a brown envelope to police?”
Mr Pharo, who had earlier approved of the Telegraph’s £150,000 payment to a public official in the MPs’ expenses story, replied: “I think it would have to be a very extreme situation to do that.”
Mr Kovalesky then asked about Mrs Brooks’ answer to MPs as to whether the Sun paid the police. Mrs Brooks had replied: “We have paid police for information in the past.”
Referring to the Sun, Mr Kovalevsky asked: “Did anything change?” to which the news editor replied: “No.”
Mr Kovalesky said: “No further questions” and sat down.
Answering questions later from Peter Wright QC, for the Crown, Mr Pharo denied that Mrs Brooks’ comment was not a surprise.
“It caused a great deal of shock and consternation around the office and the wider industry,” Mr Pharo told the court.
“It came as a shock to me that Rebekah would gladly state such a thing.”
Asked to explain whether he was shocked that the paper was paying police or that Mrs Brooks had admitted so in public, Mr Pharo said it was both.
He had stayed silent during his arrest in January 2012 over payments to officials, he said, because he had been “absolutely terrified.”
Referring to the fact that Mr Pharo had been arrested as a result of information supplied by the Sun’s parent company News Corp, Mr Wright said: ‘The company shopped you.”
The news editor replied: “I think what really grates with me is that the company provided a fraction of the evidence in this case and I have fitted the bill.”
He said he might have been “reckless on occasions” in not looking into reporters’ claims for cash payments, but had he done so every time he would not have had enough time to do his job.