By Martin Hickman
A Sun reporter never wrote a story for which he asked a manager for £300 cash to pay a prison officer, he told a court today.
John Troup told The Sun corruption trial that “on the balance of probabilities” he believed his colleague Simon Hughes – who is not on trial – wrote the story about a hanging at HMP Whitemoor.
Mr Troup agreed with his lawyer that while he was at a police station being asked questions about the 2007 story “Hitman’s Hanging,” he had believed he had written it.
However, asked by his lawyer William Clegg QC at the trial: “Who do you now believe wrote the story,” Mr Troup, formerly the Sun’s East Anglia reporter, replied: “On the balance of probabilities I believe Simon Hughes probably wrote the story.”
Asked by Mr Clegg, “Would you have ever mis-spelled the name Whitemoor in the story?” Mr Troup told the court: “I don’t believe I would have.”
The reporter said that he probably only learned that the tipster who supplied the story was a prison officer after it was published.
He agreed that after publication he would probably have collected a £300 cash payment for the tipster.
The Crown alleges that Mr Troup, 49, conspired to commit misconduct in a public office by paying the prison officer for information for the story.
In an email to the Sun’s then managing editor, Graham Dudman, in response to his query about the payment, Mr Troup wrote: “The tipster is a Prison Officer at HMP Whitemoor and has requested that we pay him in cash.
“For obvious reasons he doesn’t want any record of his name anywhere. He claims the Home Office routinely monitor the bank accounts of warders at Cat A jails. Not sure whether that’s right but in the circumstances it seemed a reasonable request.”
Mr Dudman, who is also charged with the same count, which he too denies, approved the payment of £300.
Giving evidence at the two-month trial for the first time, Mr Troup agreed he probably received the initial call from the tipster.
However he said: “I think I probably passed that information on to my colleague Simon Hughes for him to check out and stand up. That’s my best idea of what happened.”
On the day prior to publication, Mr Troup was working on story about a data breach at HMRC. Unlike two co-defendants who have told the trial they falsely claimed for meals with sources when they were actually eating out with their families, Mr Troup said he had never fiddled his own expenses.
William Clegg QC, Mr Troup’s barrister, asked: “Did you ever claim for any expenses that had not been honestly and legitimately incurred?”
“No I didn’t,” replied the reporter.
When Mr Clegg asked whether in his “entire career”, from the Wirral News to the Sun, “have you ever made a dishonest claim for expenses?” Mr Troup told the court: “No, I haven’t.”
Mr Troup was taken through his newspaper career from grammar school in Merseyside.
He said he was made redundant as the Sun’s eastern district reporter in 2009.
After being charged by the police, he had been dismissed from his job as the PR chief of his local district council in Essex – and now survived by doing odd jobs, such as working on building sites and, currently, slicing bacon.
Mr Troup, from Saffron Walden, Essex, said that while working at the Sun’s Manchester officer (before working at Wapping from 1994) he would personally be involved in fewer “than a handful” of cash payments a year.
There were a “variety” of reasons a tipster would want to be paid in cash as opposed to cheque, he told the court: “It could be because they didn’t have a bank account, or they were receiving benefits… it could be that being the source of a story being known to other people could cause them difficulties.”
Mr Clegg asked: “Was there any culture – that you were aware of – of paying cash to public officials?”
Mr Troup replied: “Not that I was aware of.”
He and five other past and present journalists deny conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office. The case continues.