Anthony France ((c) Getty)
However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, one of those who Wooding’s pinned Tweet displays was Sullivan’s reporter Anthony France, who yesterday got guilty. As the BBC reported, “A Sun newspaper reporter has been found guilty of receiving story tips from a Heathrow Airport anti-terror officer …Anthony France, 41, from Watford, had denied aiding and abetting PC Timothy Edwards to commit misconduct in a public office between 2008 and 2011”.
There was more: “Edwards sold 43 stories to France, 38 of which made the paper, in exchange for more than £22,000 … The Old Bailey heard that Edwards, 49, sold the information while working at Heathrow Airport in SO15 Counter Terrorism Command … But the jury was not told that Edwards had pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office and was jailed for two years in 2014”.
In his defence, “France told the jury he had never been advised by anyone at the Sun that speaking to a police officer - or any public official - could be breaking the law … He also said he would never have become involved in receiving story tips from Edwards if he had known it was illegal”. He claimed that, had he known it was illegal, “I would never have got involved with it. I would have told him to get lost”. France also claimed to have been told by a colleague “I’ve spoken to a lawyer and it’s fine”. That means paying the cop. Which he did. And the Sun paid for it.
Because every other journalist has used a similar defence, which suggests that, once again, it is most unwise to second guess the outcome of a jury trial. What must make it all the more galling for France is that his own news desk fed him the Police contact, which suggests that he was being encouraged to get stories from him. This he did. Are we to believe that nobody at the Sun took France aside and told him to ensure he didn’t reward that contact in any way?