Sun crime reporter Anthony France was found guilty of aiding and abetting misconduct in public office for paying a police officer, the Press Gazette reported.
France claimed he didn’t know his interactions with the police officer were illegal, saying “I would never have got involved with it” if he had known, the Telegraph reported.
“France is now the only conviction after trial of a journalist for the crime misconduct in public office prosecuted under Operation Elveden which stands,” the Press Gazette noted.
The Sun declined to comment to iMediaEthics about the conviction.
After the conviction, Detective Chief Superintentent Gordon Briggs commented that the reporter and officer “were in a long-term relationship.” Briggs, who is running the investigation into payments to public officials, added:
“Corrupt relationships of this kind undermine confidence in the police service and harm the public interest. Officers found guilty of acting in this way merit criminal sanction.
“Journalists who encourage or aid and abet their corrupt actions and do so without reasonable excuse or justification are equally culpable.”
France pleaded not guilty to the charge, but the police officer Tim Edwards whom he paid pleaded guilty to misconduct and was sentenced to two years in prison.
France paid Edwards, who worked at Heathrow Airport, about $35,000 U.S. in exchange for information in 38 stories.
The UK Prosecutor, Zoe Johnson QC, argued during the trial that the information paid for wasn’t in the public interest. “This is not a case of whistleblowing in a noble cause,” she said, as iMediaEthics previously reported, adding that “ignorance of the law is no defense.”
The Crown Prosecution Service announced two charges of conspiracy against France in 2014, iMediaEthics previously reported. One of those charges was “discontinued.”
While the CPS also dropped charges against 9 journalists for payments to public officials last month, France’s case was one of three against journalists the CPS decided to pursue.
France’s sentencing is May 29.