UK court quashes News of the World reporter's conviction
A former journalist with media tycoon Rupert Murdoch's now-defunct 'News of the World' tabloid has had his conviction for paying public officials for information overturned by an appeals court here.
London: A former journalist with media tycoon Rupert Murdoch's now-defunct 'News of the World' tabloid has had his conviction for paying public officials for information overturned by an appeals court here.
The reporter was the first to be found guilty of paying public officials under Scotland Yard's controversial 'Operation Elveden' in November 2014. He was given a six month suspended sentence following a trial.
The public official, who received the money, was jailed for three-and-a-half years, while one of his associates was sentenced to 30 weeks. All three persons cannot be named for legal reasons.
But all three have now had their convictions quashed after the Court of Appeal ruled that the trial judge had misdirected the jury on a key aspect of the ancient law being used to prosecute them, the 'Daily Telegraph' reported.
Under the common law offence, which dates back to the 13th century, the prosecution must prove that the misconduct was of such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public's trust.
Lawyers for the convicted three argued that Judge Wide, who oversaw the trial, had failed to tell the jury that the test for criminal misconduct in such cases had to be "high."
But the judge was also criticised for failing to disclose two notes which found worrying goings on in the jury room.
In one note a juror informed the judge that one of the other members of the group trying the case had been reading a magazine, while others had become aggressive during deliberations.
At the end of the second day the judge had received a note that warned of a "horrible atmosphere" in the jury room.
The next morning the judge told lawyers about the note but said he did not propose showing it to them.
Instead, he simply reminded the jury that deliberating was not the same as arguing and urged them to come to a collective decision. He also reminded them that their verdicts must be "unanimous" until given further directions.
But a short time later he received a second note from a juror which stated: "I am wasting oxygen."
The appeal court judges said both notes should have been disclosed at the time as they "showed that one juror was very concerned as to the way in which the deliberations were being conducted."
Explaining the decision to quash the convictions, the judgment concluded: "Each appellant contended on the first issue in the appeal that the judge had misdirected the jury on the third element of the offence, namely the requisite level of seriousness.
"We have nonetheless concluded that in all circumstances we cannot say that the jury would necessarily have convicted these appellants had they been directed in accordance with what we have set out. We must therefore quash the convictions."
Lord Thomas gave the Crown until next Tuesday afternoon to decide whether to seek a retrial in the first case.