A Sun reporter from Brockley has been found not guilty of paying a government press officer for tip-offs at the Old Bailey.
Clodagh Hartley, 40, was accused of paying HMRC press officer Jonathan Hall £17,000 over a three-year period.
Hall has accepted he supplied Hartley with stories and will be sentenced for misconduct in February. Mr Hall’s girlfriend Marta Bukarewicz, 45, was also cleared along with Hartley. She was in the stand after £13,000 of the payments were channelled through her bank account. The jury heard how Bukarewicz was not aware that what her partner was doing was illegal.
Hartley, the Sun’s Whitehall editor, burst into tears as she was cleared of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office.
One news piece obtained through Hartley’s arrangement with Hall was an exclusive on former Chancellor Alistair Darling’s budget speech before it was presented to parliament. Hartley defended this story saying it was in the public interest to break it before the government could ‘spin’ it.
Hartley also spoke of how the newsroom environment was “highly pressurised” and that she was particularly frightened of the Sun’s political editor Tom Newton Dunn.
Roy Greenslade, Professor of Journalism at City University, gave evidence on Hartley’s behalf and wrote in the Guardian of his “delight” that she had been found not guilty.
He said “There is nothing intrinsically wrong with paying for information. Journalists have been doing it for years and years… Government leaks are the lifeblood of British political journalism.”
Today the Sun published a piece following the verdict saying “It’s not just a victory for Clodagh but for all journalism. Because the press has become and easy target.”
“When people with power and influence show double standards carping on about family values we have a responsibility to tell the truth.”
Hartley, a mother of two, has said she does not expect to return to journalism.