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Journalists vent rage at Elveden

Under-fire Operation Elveden received another public battering as more journalists vented their rage at the "politically motivated witch hunt" after being formally cleared of wrong doing.

There were calls for a public inquiry in to the millions of pounds of taxpayers' money "wasted" on the police probe in to newspapers' dealings with officials after not guilty verdicts were entered at the Old Bailey for six journalists from three tabloid newspapers.

F ormer Sun managing editor Graham Dudman, ex-Sun deputy news editor Ben O'Driscoll, ex-Mirror reporter Greig Box Turnbull, ex-News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman, ex-NotW editor Andy Coulson, and ex-NotW's Stephen Moyes were among nine journalists whose cases were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders announced the dramatic climbdown after juries repeatedly failed to convict journalists, and Lucy Panton, the first reporter to be found guilty of plotting misconduct in a public office, won her appeal.

The decision to scrap all but three journalists' trials has already led to fierce criticism of the £20 million Elveden police probe which has so far failed to result in the successful conviction of a single reporter following a trial.

Today Mr Dudman, who had been facing a retrial in the autumn, was tearful as he spoke of the "grotesque" amount of taxpayers' money wasted on Elveden - as well as the immense personal cost to him and his family.

On the Metropolitan Police investigation, he said: " Thanks to a combination of a ruling from the Lord Chief Justice and countless jury verdicts, it has now been exposed for what it is - a politically motivated witch hunt against tabloid journalism.

"How can it possibly be right, the squad investigating journalists for publishing true stories in the public interest was allocated twice the number of detectives than a murder squad? Somebody somewhere got their priorities horribly wrong."

He also criticised the amount of time it took to clear his name after being treated "like a murderer or a terrorist" when he was first arrested three years ago.

He said: "After 1,176 days on bail, including a four-month trial and two not guilty verdicts, the CPS announced it was dropping the remaining two charges against me by sending my solicitor an email. How very different from the way it all started.

"In January 2012, somebody decided I posed such a danger to society that 10 police officers raided my home at dawn in front of my terrified wife and young children.

"They confiscated my passport before locking me in a cell, stripping me of any dignity and swabbing my mouth for DNA. I was treated like a murderer or a terrorist."

After the initial raid, he was left in "limbo" for 19 months and then had to wait another year before his trial last year at Kingston Crown Court at which a jury failed to reach verdicts.

He said: "This has been a long and frightening ordeal. I am pleased to leave the Old Bailey today an innocent man with my good character intact."

He thanked his legal team as well as family, friends and colleagues for standing by him "through the darkest days of this unspeakable experience", adding: "I'm now looking forward to getting on with the rest of my life and hope that journalism - a vital part of any democracy - is never again subjected to such an appalling attack."

Mr Box Turnbull, who was due to go on trial for paying a prison officer for stories, said he felt "completely vindicated" after the CPS dropped its "ill-conceived case".

But his feelings were tempered by the decision to go ahead with cases against three journalists and a number of public officials.

He called for a public inquiry into the Metropolitan Police wasting millions of pounds of public money by failing to take into account public interest journalism and the "public's right to know".

The journalist said: " Operation Elveden has been a vicious assault on public interest journalism and press freedom by the Met Police and the CPS.

"Nearly three years ago I became the first reporter to be arrested from Trinity Mirror, as Rupert Murdoch's betrayal of journalists and their sources crossed over into a second news organisation.

"However, I remained steadfast in my total conviction that, at all times, I had done my job professionally and lawfully as a hard-working journalist in accordance with the PCC Code of Conduct."

He went on: "The impact of Operation Elveden has affected many areas of my life and that of others. But, with time, I hope the scars will eventually heal for everyone."

Mr Goodman, who has already served time in jail for phone hacking, had to contribute £36,000 in legal fees to help fund his defence against accusations he plotted with Mr Coulson to pay police officers for two royal directories.

Today, he told journalists outside court: "It has been a pretty grim four years, not just for me but for everyone involved in this case and others still going through it.

"Unlike the other News International defendants, I have not had anyone paying my bills. It is a tremendous relief to be able to get on with my life and have it back again.

"I felt it was important to come today to see the people responsible for this vindictive prosecution stand in court and admit they got it wrong.

"I'm eternally grateful to my family, friends, colleagues and legal team for never giving up for a second."

All but ex-NotW editor Andy Coulson had attended court today for the brief hearings.


From Belfast Telegraph