A News of the World reporter was told by a “tyrant” boss to write a story about one of James Bulger’s killers from an anonymous tipster, a court heard today.
The journalist is on trial at the Old Bailey accused of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office by paying prison officer Scott Chapman for stories about Jon Venables while he was in jail for child porn offences in 2010.
Giving evidence, the defendant told jurors about the high pressured environment at the now defunct Sunday tabloid at the time of two stories on Venables which came from the source known only as Adam.
The witness told jurors how a senior colleague, who cannot be identified, would regularly dish out the “hair dryer treatment” if he was unhappy with his subordinates.
“You would get the hair dryer treatment – that’s when somebody is telling you off in a forceful way where you could feel the heat of their breath on your face.
“There was always the underlying current that you were only as good as your last story and there are plenty of other reporters out there wanting your job.”
The witness, who cannot be named, went on: “He was very, very difficult to work for. He was ruthless in his pursuit of excellence. He was a tyrant in a number of ways. He would absolutely drive his staff to the point of harassment, in hindsight, to work to the highest level to bring home stories. He micro managed everything.”
On one occasion, the journalist was forced to work from the bedside of a sick child in hospital and was told later that they had taken their “foot off the pedal” and to “pull your finger out”, the court heard.
The journalist went on to tell the jury that when the source Adam phoned up in August 2010 he would have been vetted by the NotW newsdesk for half an hour first before being passed on.
“I remember (the senior journalist) talking to me about the tipster and Venables. In overview, I was told to do the story with a Jon Venables tipster and that his name is Adam.”
The defendant said Adam’s credibility as a “tried and tested source” was verified by checking on the News International payments system under the name of the third party Lynn Gaffney who had received money for stories by the Sun before.
“This was a credible source because he was being repeatedly used by another or other journalists. I knew that they worked at the Sun and on the payments system that he had been paid by one of our newspapers.”
Defence lawyer John Butterfield QC asked: “At any point did you know the true name of Adam, namely Scott Chapman, from information he provided?
The defendant said: “No, I did not.”
The journalist also denied knowing that the source known as Adam was a prison officer.
The witness denies the charge along with co-defendant Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday reporter Tom Savage, 37, from south London.
Chapman (aged 42) and his ex-partner Gaffney (aged 40) from Corby, Northamptonshire, deny misconduct in a public office.