Fomer Sun reporter Clodagh Hartley was found not guilty of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office.
As iMediaEthics has written, Hartley was accused of bribing Jonathan Hall, a press officer for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, with more than $25,000 for stories. Hartley admitted to paying Hall but said she didn’t know it was against the law.
But on Nov. 26, the jury acquitted Hartley, according to the Guardian.
“The paper’s Whitehall editor is the first reporter from the Sun to be acquitted in relation to Scotland Yard’s Operation Elveden, the investigation into allegations of backhanders paid by newspapers for leaks from public officials,” the Guardian reported.
Hartley had defended the stories in question, like the leak of the 2010 budget, as public interest stories. Her lawyer Alexandra Healy also argued that Hartley didn’t invade privacy or endanger anyone with the stories she got for payment.
Hartley added that she thought her “sources would be protected” and claimed Hall was a “whistleblower,” the Press Gazette reported.
“I’m really pleased with the jury’s verdict and that I can now get on with my life,” Hartley is quoting as saying after the verdict.
Her lawyer, Alexandra Healy argued that Hartley had been “on trial for that criminal offence for doing her job,” noting that “She made no secret of what she was doing” since she asked News International for the payments and got the OK.
“All she could do was to request that News International pay him and we have seen that there was an authorisation process,” Healy said, according to Press Gazette. “We have to look at Miss Hartley’s actions on basis of the factual circumstances at the time and how political journalism has operated for years.”
Hall has also admitted to taking payments for stories. He will “be sentenced for misconduct in February,” the UK Telegraph reported.
Marta Bukarewicz, the girlfriend of the public official who leaked to Hartley, was found not guilty as well, according to the Guardian. THe Sun put money into Bukarewicz’s account for her boyfriend Hall, and she then gave it to him.
iMediaEthics has written to Hartley’s lawyer and the Sun for comment.