Operation Elveden Branded 'Witch Hunt' By Journalists Cleared Of Paying Officials

Operation Elveden received another public battering as more journalists vented their anger at the "politically motivated witch hunt" after being cleared of wrongdoing.

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.

Former 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 decision 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 against her conviction.

Former managing editor of the Sun, Graham Dudman, seen above leaving court in 2013, today had the charges against him dropped

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

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

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."

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Historic sex abuse allegations

Operation Elveden accused

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."

Mr Dudman said that in January 2012 "somebody decided I posed such a danger to society" that 10 officers raided his home at dawn in front of his terrified family, before placing him in a cell.

After the initial raid, Mr Dudman said 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 in what he described as a "long and frightening ordeal".

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."

Greig Box Turnbull today said Operation Elveden was a "vicious assault on public interest journalism"

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". However, his feelings were tempered by the decision to proceed with cases against three journalists and a number of public officials.

He called for a public inquiry into the Metropolitan Police for spending so much public money and failing to take into account 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."

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.

Outside court, he today said: "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."

Mr Coulson was the only accused absent from court today.