Sun got Labour MP’s mobile phone after earlier car break in, court told
Siobhain McDonagh had phone stolen from her car, with alleged thief said to have then arranged to meet reporter Nick Parker
Tuesday 18 November 2014 13.53 GMT
The Sun newspaper came into possession of a Labour MP’s mobile phone after a thief smashed the window of her car and stole her handbag, a jury has heard.
Siobhain McDonagh had parked her car in Tooting, south London, in October 2010 and had left her handbag inside, which contained, among other things, her mobile phone which was not password protected, the jury at the Old Bailey was told by the prosecution opening the case against Sun journalist Nick Parker.
Within minutes the car window had been smashed and the phone was stolen, along with the rest of the contents of her handbag, Michael Parroy QC, said.
Some 45 minutes later, the alleged thief, Michael Ankers, “was using the handset with his own SIM card in it, having on his own account thrown away the SIM originally in the phone”, Parroy said.
The next day Ankers contacted the Sun and told them he had the phone of an MP. He claimed he had found the phone on a tube.
An arrangement was then made that Ankers would meet the Sun reporter Nick Parker, at a hotel in Richmond, the jury was told.
Parker is on trial for five alleged offences including “dishonestly receiving stolen goods”, and of unlawfully accessing the phone between 17 October and 21 October 2010. …
Ankers has been charged with theft of the phone and of “dishonestly receiving stolen goods”, charges he denies.
Parroy said that at that meeting Parker, “either personally, or via a technician, downloaded the contents of the phone onto his own laptop or more likely, read what was on the phone and typed the contents into his own laptop.”
“Both of them knew they had no business whatsoever going into the phone, looking at its contacts, emails etc,” the prosecutor said, going on to say that the next day, Parker met Ankers again with a photographer accompanying him, by which time the phone had been handed in to the police.
“He arranged that meeting to be photographed because he thought the phone to be stolen,” said Parroy and therefore must have known he was “acting dishonestly”.
Parroy told jurors that Parker was “not entitled … just because he is a reporter, to interrogate someone’s else’s phone he has no business to have in his possession at all.”
Parker has also pleaded not guilty of aiding and abetting a police officer, Alan Tierney, who the jury has heard had previously pleaded guilty to misconduct in public office in 2009.
In addition, the Sun journalist has pleaded not guilty to a fifth count, one of aiding and abetting a prison officer, who was charged with misconduct in public office in 2007.
Lee Brockhouse, a prison office[r] at HMP Swaleside, is on trial with Parker at the Old Bailey, as is Ankers. …
Brockhouse is accused of entering into an agreement with the Sun and disclosing confidential information to the paper in exchange for money.
Parroy told jurors that Parker “knew perfectly well that Tierney was a police officer,” and that as a public servant he had no lawful right to sell stories to the press.
“Nonetheless, Parker was prepared to encourage the officer to act in this way so he could buy the stories for his paper,” said Parroy.
Brockhouse has also been charged with selling stories to The People newspaper, which he denies.
Parroy said that Brockhouse and Tierney “felt safe no doubt” in dealing with the Sun because they knew the press policy was to keep sources confidential.
But, he said, while a free press was an essential part of a free society, it did not mean the press were “above the law” or that public servants were entitled to sell information they get as part of their jobs to newspapers.
The jury heard that Tierney contacted the Sun after England footballer John Terry’s mother Susan Terry and his mother-in-law Susan Poole were arrested and cautioned for shoplifting in Tesco and Marks & Spencer in 2009.
He was given assurances by a Sun newsdesk executive that his identity would be as secret as the source who leaked the paper the Hutton report more than 10 years ago.
The Sun had already learned of the incident and had reported, under Parker’s byline, a front-page story proclaiming “John Terry’s mum arrested for shoplifting” on 27 March 2009.
A second front-page article reporting that “Terry’s mum nicked Pedigree Chum” while a third article told how the goods stolen were worth £1,450, more than twice originally thought, “fuelling anger that they weren’t being prosecuted”.
Parroy told jurors that it appeared that Tierney first contacted the Sun after the first front-page article by emailing the paper’s “talkback” address advertised in the paper and it appeared that the detail he passed on made it into the second and third articles.
Tierney, a former officer with Surrey Police, had been one of the officers who attended the scene at the Tesco store in Weybridge two days earlier.
In the email to the Sun, he told how the value of the goods was “£858 from Tesco and £600 from M&S, they were both laughing about it until they got arrested”.
A Sun news editor replied: “Fascinating, were you there?” Tierney replied: “Yes, I was the arresting officer.” Parroy said this exchange showed that “The Sun knew that they were dealing with a serving police officer”. The editor emailed back: “Can you tell me on the qt a bit more – what they were nicking, how they were caught etc.”
When Tierney asked if he could promise that no one would find out the information came from him, the Sun journalist replied: “I draw your attention to our famous scoop on the Hutton inquiry – we got leaked the whole report, biggest of its kind for 20 years – angry Lord Hutton went mad demanding to know our source – he still doesn’t know. We never ever tell.”
Tierney then emailed the Sun details of the shop lifting incident. “Both had filled bags, which they placed into the trolley and left the store without paying. POOLE had £202 worth of goods in her trolley and TERRY £656. The trolleys contained sweets, dog food and general food items,” he said.
He added that they also found stolen goods including clothes, watches, shoes and adult clothing, worth a total of £600 in the car they were using.
The jury was told that Parker, who was then on the story, asked his boss if the source would speak to him in confidence and whether he wanted a “bung” for the information.
A cheque for £750 was subsequently made out to James Hewett, Tierney’s brother in law.
Parker is also accused of being in contact with Tierney over the arrest of Rolling Stones star Ronnie Wood after an altercation with his then-girlfriend Ekaterina Ivanova.
The trial continues.
Fake Sheikh’s connections with crooked cops exposed. Simon Basketter examines the web of corruption involving the police, the News of the World and private investigators: here.