Four senior journalists working for the Sun newspaper and a retired soldier and his wife have been cleared of all charges relating to the payment of public officials for newspaper stories.
There were emotional scenes in and outside the number 16 court of the Old Bailey when the jury returned verdicts after over 48 hours of deliberation and cleared each defendant of all charges.
The prosecution was brought by the Crown Prosecution Service after an investigation code-named Elveden by the Metropolitan Police.
The journalist defendants denied criminal wrong doing arguing that they either did not know their sources were public officials, or that it was in the public interest and part of their job to publish scoops and information the authorities wanted to keep secret.
Those acquitted were:
- 71 year old Chief reporter John Kay from Asmuns Hill, London
- 60 year old executive editor Fergus Shanahan from Dunmow, Essex.
- 55 year old deputy editor Geoff Webster from Winchet Hill, Goudhurst, Cranbrook, Kent.
- 39 year old royal editor Duncan Larcombe from Aylesford, Kent.
- 45 year old retired Sandhurst army instructor John Hardy from Accrington, Lancs.
- His 41 year old wife Claire Hardy.
Mrs Hardy was accused of collecting tip-off fees for her husband and was cleared of aiding and abetting him.
Kay, Shanahan and Webster were charged with being involved in the payment of £100,000 to Ministry of Defence official Bettina Jordan-Barber between 2004 and 2012 for a range of exclusive details of army disciplinary investigations, sex scandals and casualties in Afghanistan.
The jury were not told that she had pleaded guilty and been sentenced to a year’s imprisonment in January this year.
Larcombe was accused of being involved in the illegal payment of £23,700 to Hardy while he worked as a Sandhurst Royal Military Academy instructor for information about Prince Harry and the Duke of Cambridge when they were officer cadets there.
The trial has been extensively covered by the UK’s journalism trade online publisher Press Gazette.
The trial verdicts have been welcomed by Guardian columnist and City University Journalism professor Roy Greenslade who believes it was wrong of the CPS to charge the journalists and bring them to trial.