‘Cash-for-stories’ majority ruling

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Published: Wednesday 21st January 2015 by The News Editor

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Jurors have been told they can return majority verdicts in the trial of current and former Sun newspaper staff allegedly involved in paying backhanders to public officials for stories.

Head of news Chris Pharo, ex-deputy news editor Ben O’Driscoll, reporter Jamie Pyatt and former managing editor Graham Dudman are on trial at Kingston Crown Court in south west London accused of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office.

Prosecutors have described a culture of corruption “on a grand scale” at the newspaper and said the men used pay-offs to “steal a march” on their competitors.

The defendants deny all the charges and claim that they had been “fed to the wolves” by News International to protect its reputation in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.

After seven days of deliberations, Judge Richard Marks QC told the jury of nine men and three women they can now return majority verdicts in which at least 10 of them are agreed.

He said: “I’m going to ask you to retire and resume your deliberations and endeavour to reach unanimous verdicts.

“Unanimity is desirable and preferable if that can be achieved.

“Given the amount of time that has elapsed, I will accept from you … majority verdicts, verdicts in which at least 10 are agreed.”

Pharo, 45, of Sandhurst in Berkshire, faces three counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.

Dudman, 51, of Brentwood in Essex, Pyatt, 51, of Windsor in Berkshire, and O’Driscoll, 38, also of Windsor, remain charged with two counts each of the same offence.

Stories were said to have involved details about the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, pop star Mick Hucknall and murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

Information was allegedly sold to the newspaper by public officials, including police and prison staff, the court has heard.

The trial before Judge Marks has lasted three months.

Last Friday, The Sun’s picture editor John Edwards and former reporter John Troup were cleared of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office.

O’Driscoll and Dudman were also found not guilty of one similar charge but await verdicts on the remaining counts they face.

Published: Wednesday 21st January 2015 by The News Editor

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