After getting caught in a “pay to play” scheme and being charged with paying a public official more than $25,000 for stories, an editor at the UK Sun said she’s quitting journalism.
The editor, Clodagh Hartley, is currently on trial for conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office, as are her source, Jonathan Hall and his partner who is accused of funneling much of the money.
The Sun declined to comment on the trial since it is ongoing. Likewise, Hartley’s solicitor said she doesn’t comment on her clients.
“It is a case in which Mr Hall, the HMRC press officer, was motivated by greed and Miss Hartley, the journalist, was motivated by acquiring the next big scoop or exclusive,” the prosecutor Zoe Johnson said, according to the BBC.
Hartley claimed she didn’t know it was against the law to pay public officials and that she thought “sources would be protected,” the UK Press Gazette reported.
Hartley paid Hall £17,475 (or about $27,000 U.S.). Hall was a press officer for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. The payments were made between 2008 and 2011, according to a press statement from the Crown Prosecution Service.
Hall leaked information including the 2010 budget, the Guardian reported from the trial.
“Readers of the Sun were reading details of the budget before the chancellor had got to his feet in the House of Commons,” the UK prosecutor Zoe Johnson said, according to the Guardian.
Hartley defended the budget report as in the public interest. ” “I thought there was a massive public interest in this, for our readers having this information before it was packaged and submitted to media spin the next day,” the UK newspaper Ham & High reported she said.
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The prosecutor Zoe Johnson added that Hartley wasn’t paying for any “noble” information. “This was no noble whistleblowing relationship, but a grubby relationship based on greed,” she said according to the Guardian.
Harley technically paid the majority of the £17,475 to Hall’s girlfriend, Marta Bukarewicz, who then gave him most of the money under the guise of rent, the trial said.
Bukarewicz said in court she didn’t know exactly what was going on and she just went along with Hall’s request to use her account, the Guardian reported. She denied that she knew “what he was doing was illegal.”
“I did not know at the time that it was illegal to pay police officers, soldiers. I didn’t know. I have learned from these events,” she said in court, according to the Press Gazette.
The prosecutor noted that the police found texts between Hartley and Hall where Hartley told them they wouldn’t be in trouble because she paid his girlfriend who wasn’t a public official. Through those texts, the prosecutor claims Hartley did know it was against the law to pay off Hall.
Hall admitted swapping stories for cash. Hartley and Hall’s girlfriend deny the charges of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office against them.
Hall, Hartley and Bukarewicz were all charged in May 2013.