By Martin Hickman
Some stories published by The Sun as a result payments to public officials were so trivial that jurors should acquit the reporter who wrote them, his lawyer said today.
In his closing speech at the trial of six Sun journalists for conspiring to commit misconduct in public office, Richard Kovalevsky QC cited as an example a Sun story about a Halloween party at Broadmoor.
Thames Valley district reporter Jamie Pyatt, Mr Kovalevsky’s client, agrees that he paid a healthcare assistant at Broadmoor for information which led to publication of the story.
But Mr Kovalevsky said that, in accordance with the judge’s legal directions handed out last week, the jury could not conclude the information was confidential (an essential element of the offence) if it was trivial.
Referring to the story, headlined Sick or Treat, Mr Kovalevsky said: “Pretty trivial information that there’s a Halloween part in Broadmoor where all the patients are dressed up in ghoulish costumes celebrating the pagan festival.”
He added that although the story was trivial it was in the public interest because the then Home Secretary, Jack Straw, had raised the party in Parliament and subsequently banned such celebrations.
In order to convict Mr Pyatt, Mr Kovalevsky said, the jury would also have to be sure that he “knew or intended” to enter into an agreement to commit misconduct in public office.
Mr Kovalevsky told the court: “What’s key in a conspiracy…? ‘Knew’ or ‘intended’ is key. And what that means, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is that Mr Pyatt ‘knew or intended’. Now that’s important…”
The QC raised what he described as the “high point” of the prosecution case: Mr Pyatt’s purchase of witness statements about a rape case.
Referring to their purchase from Surrey PS Simon Quinn, Mr Kovalevsky said: “If the position was, when essentially Mr Pyatt went to meet Mr Quinn, that there was a chance it might happen, that he might get detail, then you have to acquit him.”
He pointed out that the Sun had not published the name and address of the rape complainant.
Mr Kovalevsky also addressed a claim, made minutes earlier by Nigel Rumfitt QC in his closing speech for Sun news editor Chris Pharo, that Mr Pyatt had lied in the witness box.
Mr Kovalevsky told the jury: “Mr Rumfitt says Jamie Pyatt is dishonest.”
Yet, the lawyer pointed out, The Sun’s former editor Rebekah Wade had told a Parliamentary committee in 2003 that the Sun had paid police for stories.
He said: “When you look at Jamie Pyatt’s stories, they’re all accurate.
“So what Mr Pyatt has done which so exercises Mr Rumfitt is that he’s come along and dared to say: ‘Perhaps, everyone knew anyway’.”
He said that Mr Pyatt had been steadfast under cross-examination, even when being shot to “smithereens,” that his stories were in the public interest.
Mr Kovalevsky said that much out of the information supplied to him by officials had already seeped out in one form or another, telling the jury: “In relation to a lot of these articles, confidence had been destroyed.”
All six defendants – Mr Pyatt, Mr Pharo, Ben O’Driscoll, Graham Dudman, John Edwards and John Troup – deny conspiring to commit misconduct in public office. The case continues.