Operation Elveden: Court quashes reporter's conviction

News of the World newspapers Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption The News of the World journalist was given a six-month suspended sentence in November 2014

An ex-News of the World reporter who was found guilty of paying a prison officer for information has had their conviction quashed.

The journalist was the first to be found guilty under Operation Elveden, the police probe into alleged payments to public officials for information.

The officer and his friend also won appeals against their convictions.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said no decision on possible retrials had been made.

The reporter, who cannot be named, was given a six-month suspended sentence at the Old Bailey in November 2014.

The officer and his friend, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been convicted in 2014 of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.

A 42-month jail sentence was given to the officer and a 30-week sentence was handed to his friend.

Scotland Yard later defended the decision to go ahead with the case.

"The Metropolitan Police Service believes it was right that the evidence we gathered, having been tested and reviewed by the CPS as meeting the required threshold, was then put to a jury," a statement said.

'Horrible atmosphere'

The Lord Chief Justice ruled at the Court of Appeal that the trial judge, Charles Wide, had "misdirected" the jury on a key aspect of the ancient common law offence of misconduct in a public office in relation to the "level of seriousness" required.

The judgement said the jury should have considered whether the supply of information by the prison officer "has the effect of harming the public interest".

It also revealed some of the juror notes sent to the judge during their deliberations, including one that told of the "horrible atmosphere" in which they were working.

"The discussions within the jury room have become aggressive and the atmosphere is horrible" the note said.

"One juror even got out a magazine and proceeded to read this whilst others were stating their points.

"Please be aware all of the above is only the activity of two jurors however I strongly feel it is affecting the ability of us all to voice our opinions without fear of reprisal from them."

The next morning the judge told lawyers about the note but said he did not propose showing it to them.

He directed the jury encouraging them to have "discussions" rather than "arguments" and reminded them "the collective collaborative nature of your decision making is important."

Immediately after the jury resumed considering their verdicts the judge received a note from another juror which said: "I am being that, I am wasting oxygen!"

According to the judgment, both notes should have been disclosed at the time as they "showed that one juror was very concerned as to the way in which the deliberations were being conducted".

The CPS said it would consider the contents of the judgement "very carefully".

It has until 31 March to make a decision on a retrial.

Royal stories

In a separate case, the Lord Chief Justice also gave ex-News of the World reporter Ryan Sabey, the second journalist to be convicted following an Operation Elveden trial, leave to appeal against his conviction.

Sabey, 34, of Bethnal Green, east London, was found guilty of aiding and abetting lance corporal Paul Brunt to commit misconduct in a public office in February this year.

The court heard Brunt, 32, of Kentish Town, north London, was paid more than £16,000 to provide information and pictures about Prince Harry to the Sun and the News of the World over 18 months from 2006.