MOST of the journalists awaiting trial for paying public officials for stories, including former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, had their cases dropped yesterday, signalling a major victory for critics of the controversial Operation Elveden police investigation.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced it was scrapping the cases of nine out of 12 journalists awaiting trial following an urgent review prompted when the Court of Appeal quashed the conviction of the first reporter to be found guilty.
It comes hours after angry calls were made outside the Old Bailey to stop “persecuting innocent journalists” after four more reporters were cleared of paying public officials for stories in the latest of the controversial Operation Elveden trials.
The Sun’s Tom Wells, Neil Millard and Brandon Malinsky and former Daily Mirror reporter Graham Brough were found not guilty of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office, bringing the total number of reporters to be cleared by a jury to 14.
The CPS, which authorised 27 reporters to be prosecuted, launched a root-and-branch review of the outstanding cases over Easter after the Lord Chief Justice ruled out a retrial of NotW crime reporter Lucy Panton, who can now be named for the first time.
Lord Thomas found the jury in the trial of the 40-year-old mother-of-two from Surrey should have been directed that the misconduct had to be really serious to convict.
He also gave NotW reporter Ryan Sabey – the only other reporter to be found guilty of an Elveden offence – leave to appeal against his conviction.
The nine journalists whose forthcoming cases have been dropped include ex-Mirror reporter Greig Box-Turnbull and the NotW’s Stephen Moyes, ex-NotW royal editor Clive Goodman, NotW editor Andy Coulson and former Sun managing editor Graham Dudman.
But the CPS will go ahead with cases involving six public officials, the wife of a public official and three Sun journalists – head of news Chris Pharo, reporter James Pyatt and crime reporter Anthony France.
Yesterday’s announcement is likely to be welcomed by critics of the £20 million police investigation – one of the biggest ever Scotland Yard inquiries.
When four senior Sun journalists, including chief reporter John Kay and royal editor Duncan Larcombe, were cleared last month, there were calls for the “witch-hunt” against the members of the newspaper industry to end.
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