A senior reporter for the Sun newspaper, Nick Parker, was found guilty today of handling stolen goods after he accessed messages from a Labour MP’s mobile phone.
The phone, the court heard, was taken from the car of Siobhain McDonagh MP in October 2010, during the Labour leadership contest. Michael Ankers, who was convicted for the theft, then called the Sun news-desk and met with Parker who agreed to pay £10,000 for the contents of the phone if it led to a story. The reporter then went to a hotel and transcribed the text messages on the phone and sent them to senior colleagues.
In the event no story was ever run and no payments were made, however emails given by News International to the police led to an investigation and the reporters arrest and charge in June 2013. Parker was also charged with aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office but was found not guilty on those charges.
In his defence the journalist had argued that he was “just doing his job” and was merely a “messenger” for other more senior staff at the Sun. In one heated exchange with prosecutors he argued that: “I was following the instruction of most senior lawyer at News International. He made the decisions but is not in court today,” continuing: “It’s run by the lawyers, it’s run by the senior management, it’s nothing to do with me.”
The conviction marks the first successful prosecution of a Sun journalist under Operations Elveden and Tuleta, the police investigations into corrupt practices and computer misuse in the newspaper industry. A trial at Kingston Crown court is also currently hearing evidence against six other reporters from the newspaper and further proceedings are due to commence early next year.