Yesterday, the United Kingdom’s Court of Appeal threw out the conviction of a former News of the World reporter accused of paying a public official for information, BBC News reports. The decision is a setback for Operation Elveden, the controversial police investigation into the practice of journalists paying officials for leaks and confidential details about public figures.
According to BBC News, the journalist, whose name cannot be disclosed for legal reasons, was convicted in November 2014 of supplying money to an unnamed prison official in return for information. The journalist was given a six-month suspended sentence. The prison official who allegedly accepted the money has also had his conviction and 42-month sentence overturned.
The Guardian reports that the Court of Appeal ruled that Justice William Davis did not give sufficiently clear instructions to the jury. In order to convict the defendants, the jury must find that the misconduct must be so serious “as to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust.” But according to the Court of Appeal, Davis did not sufficiently stress how serious this misconduct must be in order to justify a conviction.
Operation Elveden is an investigation into allegations that tabloid journalists have systematically paid public officials for private information about public figures or victims of sensational crimes. According to The Guardian, the Crown Prosecution Service has brought 24 reporters to trial as part of the investigation. Of the 24 reporters, one has been convicted, while a second reporter has pled guilty. The remaining 22 have either been acquitted or are awaiting retrials after juries could not reach a decision.