Cleared News of the World journalist Lucy Panton tells of 'hellish' ordeal

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Media captionFormer crime editor of the News of the World, Lucy Panton: "I was jobless, isolated and unable to pay my legal fees"

A former crime editor of the News of the World has been formally cleared of outstanding charges of illegally paying a public official for stories.

Speaking outside the Old Bailey, Lucy Panton, 40, said she had been through a "hellish four-year ordeal".

Ms Panton was found guilty last year, but later had her conviction quashed by judges at the Court of Appeal.

Charges against eight other journalists were also dropped by prosecutors last week.

Ms Panton - who previously could not be named for legal reasons - was the first journalist to be convicted under Operation Elveden, the Metropolitan Police investigation into alleged inappropriate payments to police and public officials.

She was given a suspended prison sentence, but was later cleared by the Court of Appeal.

After her conviction had been quashed, Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders conducted a review of Operation Elveden, leading to the decision to drop the cases against nine out of 12 journalists who had faced trial.

Those cases included Ms Panton's second trial.

Overwhelming relief

Speaking outside the Old Bailey - where she was formally cleared of the outstanding charges - she said the moment had been "a long time coming".

"I want to say a massive thank you to my amazing family, friends and legal team whose unwavering support has got me through this hellish four-year-ordeal," she told the BBC.

She described how she had been on maternity leave when the News of the World closed in July 2011 and how nine police officers then raided her home in December that year.

"Nine police officers raided my home and turfed my then six-month-old son out of his cot along with his five-year-old sister from her bed.

"I was jobless, isolated and unable to pay my legal fees," she added.

She added: "I cannot describe the overwhelming relief felt by me and my family when Fleet Street and beyond came to my aid. In just three days enough money was raised to pay the massive outstanding legal bills I was facing."

The announcement to end the nine Operation Elveden cases was made after three journalists were found not guilty of illegally paying public officials by a jury at London's Old Bailey last week.

The Crown Prosecution Service has said it will continue with the prosecutions of three Sun journalists; Jamie Pyatt, Chris Pharo and - in a separate case - Anthony France.

All three are accused of paying police officers. Seven public officials will also continue to face charges, the CPS said.

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