By Martin Hickman
Paying an NHS worker at Broadmoor for a story about patients staging a Halloween party was worthwhile, a former Sun executive told a court today.
Ben O’Driscoll said that the story – headlined Sick or Treat – was “important” and prompted the psychiatric hospital to change its policy on such parties.
Giving evidence at the Sun corruption trial, Mr O’Driscoll agreed with prosecutor Oliver Glasgow that a Broadmoor insider had obviously supplied the story, for which reporter Jamie Pyatt secured £1,000 cash for his source.
Mr Glasgow asked: “A staff member?”, to which Mr O’Driscoll, former deputy news editor of the Sun, replied: “That’s right.”
The executive said the money could have gone to “Tipster Bob,” who had phoned the paper’s Wapping headquarters offering to supply information about the serial killer Robert Knapper.
Kingston Crown Court was told that Mr O’Driscoll had passed the details of “Tipster Bob” onto Mr Pyatt, the Thames Valley reporter whose patch covered Broadmoor.
Mr Pyatt has agreed that he subsequently paid Broadmoor healthcare assistant Robert Neave cash for information about what happened inside the hospital.
While asking the newsdesk for money for the Halloween story, Mr Pyatt said of his source: “This guy is just getting better and better.”
Referring to the Halloween party story, Mr O’Driscoll, now the Daily Mail’s deputy news editor, told the court: “It’s better that Robert Neave receives the money in that way, than the story does not come out.
“Broadmoor had to change its policy in the way they dealt with patients as a result of that story.”
Mr Glasgow pressed him: “You don’t see a problem with a national newspaper paying cash to public officers, so that they can disclose information to that newspaper?”
Mr O’Driscoll replied: “You have to be very careful about this. This was a nurse at Broadmoor who was disclosing how that hospital was run and the issues with that hospital. It was very important.
“If you add up all the money he received over a number of years, it wasn’t a great deal.”
When the prosecutor pointed out that Mr Neave had received approximately £9,000 from the Sun in total, Mr O’Driscoll said: “I would far prefer it if Mr Neave had remained as he had been at the beginning – a whistleblower.”
He, Mr Pyatt and four other past and present Sun journalists deny conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office. The case continues.