'Sun' Reporter Escapes Jail Term Over Paying for Stories

Aditi Khanna/London
'Sun' Reporter Escapes Jail Term Over Paying for Stories

A reporter with the Rupert Murdoch owned Sun tabloid has escaped jail time after he was handed an 18-month suspended prison sentence today over illegal payments to a police official for scoops.

Anthony France was found guilty of aiding and abetting PC Timothy Edwards to commit misconduct by paying him for tip-offs for news stories.

Judge Timothy Pontius sentenced the reporter to 18 months, suspended for two years, and to 200 hours of community service at the end of a trial at the Old Bailey Court in London.

He described the 41-year-old as a journalist of "hitherto unblemished character" who was "essentially a decent man of solid integrity".

France is the first Sun journalist to be convicted as part of a probe into alleged illegal payments to officials.

A suspended sentence allows him a period of probation and to avoid jail time unless he breaks his probation requirements.

France's trial heard how PC Edwards had sold 38 stories and tip-offs to the reporter between March 2008 and July 2011 in exchange for more than 22,000 pounds.

A number of journalists from the Sun had been in court to support France during the hearing.

Judge Pontius acknowledged that France followed established procedures at the newspaper in the manner of the payments and the payments had gone through the newspaper's accounts.

France, a crime reporter, had been prosecuted under Operation Elveden - the Metropolitan Police investigation into alleged inappropriate payments to police and public officials.

His conviction comes after charges against nine journalists accused of making illegal payments to officials were dropped by the UK Crown Prosecution Service last month.

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