Four more journalists are cleared

Published: Friday 17th April 2015 by The News Editor

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Four more tabloid journalists have been cleared of paying public officials for stories – including the first from the Daily Mirror to be tried following the controversial Operation Elveden investigation.

The Sun’s Tom Wells, Neil Millard and Brandon Malinsky and former Daily Mirror reporter Graham Brough were found not guilty of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office, bringing the total number of reporters to be cleared by a jury to 14.

The jury, which has been out for nearly 42 hours, has not reached a verdict on one charge relating to Wells and former Serco immigration detention centre official Mark Blake and was sent out to continue deliberating.

The jury is still considering one charge relating to Wells’ dealings with Blake who, while working at Colnbrook secure immigration removal centre between 2008 and 2010, allegedly pocketed nearly £8,000 in exchange for tips.

But the 34-year-old, from south east London, was cleared of wrongdoing in relation to two prison officers – Scott Chapman and Richard Trunkfield – who allegedly sold information about James Bulger killer Jon Venables while he was behind bars in 2010 and 2011.

Wells told jurors he was not given any training about whether it might be a crime to pay a public official for stories and, had he known, he “would not have gone anywhere near it”.

No-one at the Sun had ever told him it might be illegal, he said, adding: “I’m not the type of person who ever seeks to break the law – I’ve never even had a speeding ticket!”

Brough, 54, of south west London, was found not guilty over an alleged plot with Pentonville prison officer Reggie Nunkoo, who gave him information about celebrities Jack Tweed and Boy George for £1,150.

The ex-Mirror reporter raised eyebrows in court when he told jurors he would only work for the Sun if his children were “starving”.

He said he was not told anything about misconduct in public office but he felt payment to police officers was wrong, and, when pushed, added that might extend to others, including prison officers.

This position was ingrained in others at the Mirror and, had a prison officer told him they wanted payment, he would have been “amazed” and responded: “You’re joking”.

However, the court later heard that editor Richard Wallace had told the Leveson Inquiry that on occasion the newspaper had paid public service officials employed in the health and prison services for information.

Nunkoo, who went by the pseudonym Roy, later approached the Sun with stories about George Michael after the singer was jailed for driving under the influence of cannabis.

As night news editor, Malinsky, 50, from north London, exchanged emails with Millard about the tips, the court was told.

But Malinsky denied having direct dealings the officer or having anything to do with authorising cash payment of £650.

Asked if he thought there was anything wrong in dealing with a prison officer, he said: “I would not think that at the time. You would use your own moral compass to decide who you should or shouldn’t speak to. Personally, I would not have dealt with a police officer.”

Millard, 33, of south Croydon, was also accused over his dealings with a prison officer at Venables’ jail and Rosemary Collier, who worked as part of the civilian staff of the Metropolitan Police at the central communications command in Bow.

Collier had allegedly provided Millard with information about a mandatory briefing on how to act in the face of a terrorist shooting incident in 2010.

All the defendants denied various counts of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office, while Blake additionally denied misconduct in a public office.

Journalists and supporters packed into the historic oak-panelled Court 3 of the Old Bailey as the verdicts were delivered.

Although the Common Serjeant of London had ordered silence in court, there were muted expressions of delight as the journalists were found not guilty.

Published: Friday 17th April 2015 by The News Editor

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