Media

The Sun treated PCC code 'differently' court told

By James Doleman |

August 11, 2014 | 4 min read

Former journalist for The Sun, Ben Ashford faced prosecution questioning this morning over his account of how, in 2009, he obtained a mobile phone stolen from a Manchester nightclub.

On Friday, Ashford told a jury at London's Old Bailey that he had not known that the phone had been stolen from a nightclub and had instead received it in "good faith." He also testified that he trusted senior members of staff at The Sun, who were aware of his actions, to "know what they were doing."

Questioned by prosecutor Peter Wright, the former journalist said that his 2012 arrest for receiving stolen property had left his "career in tatters" and that he had only been following instructions from the Sun's news desk.

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Wright challenged this account and accused Ashford's defence of being "fiction". He suggested that the journalist "did not care a jot" about privacy despite the messages stored on the phone "telling a very sorry tale about a very vulnerable woman". Neither the woman concerned nor the well known TV performer she was in contact with can be named for legal reasons.

Ashford told the court he only found out the phone was stolen when its owner posted about the issue on Twitter. However, this was challenged by the prosecution who claimed a tape recording, which was only revealed after the trial began, of the meeting between the journalist and the student who provided him with the phone showed "it was blindingly obvious this was a dodgy phone".

The prosecution also put to Ashford that his actions were a clear breach of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) code which forbids invasions of privacy unless there is a clear public interest involved.

Ashford agreed there was no public interest in the story he was working on about the unnamed celebrity and agreed he had been given a copy of the PCC guidelines when he began working for the Sun. The journalist told the jury that the code was "vague", adding: "I don't think I would have read it very regularly when at the Sun, the way you worked there was very different from local newspapers "because you had lawyers. You were encouraged to leave responsibility for these sorts of matters to the lawyers."."

The defendant continues to deny the charges, the jury is expected to retire tomorrow to consider it's verdict.

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