Sun reporter’s conviction is quashed on appeal
SUN REPORTER ANTHONY FRANCE, the only journalist found guilty following the Met Police’s disastrous Operation Elveden, has had his conviction quashed. France’s ordeal lasted 1,379 days – he was convicted last May – yet today he was cleared by the Court of Appeal in a 30-second hearing. Operation Elveden, which targeted journalists and arrested more than 20 Sun reporters, wasted the time of 60 police officers and cost the taxpayer £30 million, has now failed to convict a single journalist. It’s a scandal. [Guido Fawkes]
“IN MOST OF THE CASES in which journalists were charged, ordinary members of the public who made up juries clearly decided journalists were working in the public interest. The police and Crown Prosecution Service need to think more carefully before they charge journalists for informing the public.” [Bob Satchwell, Society of Editors]
WHILE A TOTAL OF 21 public officials have been convicted as part of the investigation, the reporters persistently argued that any payments had been made in order to expose matters of public interest.
As the trials began jury after jury agreed with them and refused to convict.
Critics of the investigation accused the police and prosecutors of pursuing a “witch-hunt” against the tabloid press using a little known and rarely used [700-year-old] section of the Common Law.
The CPS has now issued new guidance to prosecutors which set out that it is not always a criminal offence for a journalist to pay a public official for information. [Daily Telegraph report]
IN A WRITTEN JUDGMENT, the court said the judge in France’s original trial should have give more detailed directions to the jury in what was a “complex area of the law” – this should have included guidance on assessing the seriousness of harm caused by the information given France, and more detailed instruction on evaluating the public interest. The cumulative effect of the court’s criticism meant the conviction was unsafe.
The ruling said: “Taking any one of those criticisms in isolation, we may not have been persuaded the summing up rendered the conviction unsafe. However, we must consider their cumulative effect and read the summing-up as a whole … we are driven to the conclusion that the jury were not provided with legally adequate directions tailored to the circumstances of the case and that the conviction is unsafe.”