Three million emails at News International are missing after Rebekah Brooks changed the company’s email deletion policy, a jury heard.
Brooks ordered the change in June 2010, which resulted in a large quantity of emails being deleted, including those “covering her entire period as editor of the Sun”, Kingston crown court was told.
The issue of missing emails emerged as the prosecution completed its case in the trial of six Sun and former Sun journalists accused of making corrupt payments to public officials. All six deny the charges.
Oliver Glasgow, prosecuting, read out details of the email deletion as an “agreed fact” between parties at the trial. He told the jury it had resulted in a significant loss of emails. “Three million are missing,” he said. Some had been recovered from backups made by independent contractors “including evidence in this trial”.
Earlier, the jury was told that one journalist had used the phrase “senior police source” to dress up stories and aggrandise himself in the eyes of his bosses and readers. Jamie Pyatt, 51, told police he had never paid police officers and that the phrase “senior police source” was just a euphemism.
In a police interview made under caution and read to the court, Pyatt, the Sun’s Thames Valley reporter for 25 years, told officers: “Everybody uses it to make it look like they have got somebody on the inside track.
“We are trying to make ourselves look as if we are so inside the story so the reader thinks, ‘Oh he’s done well’. The phrase was to ‘dress it up’, to make [the story] look a lot stronger than what you have got.”
Asked by police to describe the term “police contact”, Pyatt said it was a “very, very wide” term, and could apply to the girlfriend or wife of a police officer. It was a “catch-all phrase” used for “bigging yourself up a little bit” and also helped to “get your expenses through”, he said.
On paying cash to tipsters, he told police: “It’s cash payments. That’s the reason why they call us.” He didn’t need to know the recipient’s full details, he told officers. Over 25 years at the Sun, he was respected, worked his Thames Valley patch well, and there wasn’t a barman or barmaid in Windsor who did not know him.
People rang the news desk offering stories, the news desk agreed a fee if it checked out, and his job was to pursue the lead and then, if it made the paper, to pay them what they had been promised, he said. The Sun did not pay for everything, only exclusives. “If it is just people talking, no. We don’t wander round with a sackful of cash like Father Christmas.”
Pyatt told officers that after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, the paper had devoted 11 pages to the story every day for a month. “It saved us a fortune because we didn’t have to pay for stories.”
Strict new guidelines on payments introduced at the Sun had made it “a lot harder to get stories”, he said in the interview.
In a later interview, he read from a prepared statement which said: “All payments to sources were required to be sanctioned by my superiors and ultimately signed off at management or editorial level.”
He told officers he felt a little bit disappointed, and let down” by the News International investigation that led to his arrest. “At the end of the day, I just do as I’m told,” he told them. He said of Sun staff: “We feel we are being investigated and we have not done anything wrong.”
Pyatt; Chris Pharo, 45, the Sun’s head of news; Ben O’Driscoll, 38, former deputy news editor; Graham Dudman, 51, managing editor; John Edwards, 50, picture editor; and John Troup, 49, reporter, all deny conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office. The trial continues