Reporter who faced the same charge as MP Damian Green asks: Was he bugged like me?

Sally Murrer

Victory: Journalist Sally Murrer is acquitted of aiding and abetting misconduct in landmark court ruling

A journalist on similar charges to those faced by Damian Green raised the prospect that he had been bugged by police as she walked free from court yesterday.

Reporter Sally Murrer, charged with receiving sensitive information from a police officer, won a victory for Press freedom when the charges against her were thrown out.

The 50-year-old had been accused of encouraging a police officer to leak confidential information, but evidence against her was ruled inadmissible after a five-day legal battle.

A judge decided that her rights under Article Ten of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to receive and impart information without interference by public authority – had been breached. Her police contact, Det Sgt Mark Kearney, also walked free from Kingston Crown Court in Surrey.

During the investigation, Miss Murrer was the subject of police covert recordings via a bug placed in the car of her police contact.

After a judge ruled that the evidence could not be used in court, Miss Murrer questioned whether Mr Green had suffered similar treatment. Earlier this year it emerged that another MP, Sadiq Khan, had been bugged by the Metropolitan Police.

Miss Murrer, a part-time reporter at the Milton Keynes Citizen, said: 'I do feel very sorry for him (Mr Green) indeed. It's an extremely unpleasant situation to be in and I can't believe it's happening again.

'It's such a chilling parallel to this case and it's really frightening that police seem to be the judge and jury of what is in the public interest and what isn't. It will be very interesting to know whether surveillance was involved.'

The information that the Crown had accused Miss Murrer of encouraging Mr Kearney to leak to her was described by her outside the court as 'run-of-the-mill, local paper stories'. One was about a serving prisoner at a young offenders' institution who was telling staff that he intended to be a suicide bomber when he left prison.

Miss Murrer, who has three children, said of her ordeal: 'This case has destroyed us. We have lived and breathed this for the past 18 months. I don't know if you can ever just return to a normal life after something like this.

'In some ways, it has been easier for me because I have had the children to think about all the while. As this has all been going on, I've had to be a mum with all the domestic duties that go with that. For the others, it's all they have had to think about. It's been all-consuming.'

Gavin Millar, QC for Miss Murrer, had told the court that Det Sgt Kearney was a confidential source and the State had no right to record his conversations with Miss Murrer.

'A large chunk of the reporting we read in the newspapers and see on television originates from reports from confidential sources in public authorities.

'That is a form of journalism that needs protection from the law. Journalists should not be scared of conversing with confidential sources.'

He said police should have made an application to Miss Murrer via the courts if they wanted to know who her source was. 'The prosecuting authority had no evidence whatsoever to suggest that she had even published any material that must have been given to her by a police officer in breach of professional conduct.'

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