When Ryan Sabey, one of the Murdoch goons at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, was roundly condemned yesterday, especially by Labour MPs like Lisa Nandy, for peddling a complete pack of lies suggesting there would be a challenge to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership at Conference and the office would be “wrestled” from him by Chuka Umunna (it would be news to both of them), there was something we were not told.
And that is Sabey’s place in the pantheon of bent journalism, which was assured during his time at the late and not at all lamented Screws. As Lisa O’Carroll told of his time at the paper, “At 20, he was the youngest reporter at a paper known for its aggressive and bullying management techniques, and did not question his bosses”.
There was more. “Sabey was recruited to the News of the World in 2001 by the paper’s then editor Rebekah Brooks and her deputy Andy Coulson. He was named young journalist of the year in 2005 at an industry awards event after Coulson had taken over as editor, before being poached by the Sun in 2009”. And what got him into trouble?
“Ryan Sabey, 34, received a string of leaks from Household Cavalry soldier Paul Brunt from inside the barracks, including the whereabouts of Prince Harry”. In exchange, Sabey arranged to pay the soldier a suitable inducement to keep the information coming. “He explained to bosses, including News of the World news editor Ian Edmondson and managing editor Stuart Kuttner: ‘I hope it’s possible to pay an army contact £1,500 cash payment for the story instead of into his bank account’”.
Do go on. “‘He doesn’t want money paid into his account because he fears this could jeopardise his position if the army ever asked to see his bank account statements’ … The reporter passed on the wad of cash to Brunt at a garage near the News of the World offices in Wapping, east London”. But Brunt was not only feeding Sabey. “Brunt was also leaking information to the News of the World’s News International sister paper the Sun at the same time, raking in more than £16,000 from both papers”.
This resulted in both Brunt and Sabey ending up on trial. Sabey was convicted of paying public officials for stories, while Brunt was convicted of misconduct in a public office. Fortunately for the then Sun man, before he could be sentenced, he and his contact both successfully appealed “on the grounds that the jury was misdirected by the trial judge”.
That’s what the Sun, when its target has incurred the displeasure of the Murdoch mafiosi, calls “getting off on a technicality”. And that may explain why Sabey invented a hot and steaming pile of bullpucky about the Labour leader over the weekend. After all, if you’re used to being able to bribe someone for genuine information, it must be hard work to manage without it, and have to do some proper journalism instead.
Ryan Sabey was very, very lucky indeed to get away with what he did at the Screws. Anyone might have thought he would tread carefully in future, given what happened to some of the paper’s less fortunate former staffers. But he clearly has his instructions.
The public does have an answer to this misbehaviour: Don’t Buy The Sun.