Now The Sun tries to call in its favours from Downing Street

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

No 10 rebuffs newspaper as journalist claims they are being treated like 'an organised crime gang'

The Sun newspaper vainly turned to Downing Street for support yesterday as it sought to generate a backlash to what it described as a "witch hunt" police investigation into the alleged bribery of public officials by its journalists.

The newspaper's Associate Editor Trevor Kavanagh was given a platform by editor Dominic Mohan to claim that News International journalists were "being treated like members of an organised crime gang".

Yesterday morning, a Sun journalist invited Downing Street to agree that the police had deployed a disproportionate number of officers to investigating allegations of criminality at NI. Downing Street responded: "It is for the police to decide how they deploy police officers."

Mr Kavanagh, for years the paper's political editor, then went on a tour of broadcast appearances that included Radio 4's The World At One, Sky News's Boulton & Co and Richard Bacon's show on Radio 5 Live. In the latter interview, Mr Kavanagh accused the News Corporation Management & Standards Committee (MSC) of "actually boasting" that its work was "putting people in police cells".

What was extraordinary about these criticisms of Rupert Murdoch's company is that they were being made not just by a senior employee but by a Murdoch ultra-loyalist, apparently with the sanction of the editor of News Corp's most popular British newspaper.

During the day, Sky video of Mr Kavanagh's attack was placed on The Sun's website and his outburst in the newspaper was vigorously re-Tweeted by the paper's official Twitter account, and by Mr Kavanagh's newsroom colleagues. This was open rebellion. NI sister paper The Times was briefed that Sun journalists were being thrown to the police simply for taking contacts out for a £50 lunch.

The level of anger is great because the arrested journalists include some of the most respected figures in The Sun's newsroom. The picture editor John Edwards, who was one of those raided on Saturday morning, is the son of the famous Sun photographer Arthur Edwards, a favourite of the Royal family. Another was deputy editor Geoff Webster, who is married to Alison Webster, the photographer who takes the paper's Page Three topless photographs.

Two more of those held, John Kay and Nick Parker, are among the paper's finest story-getters and have dedicated their careers to The Sun. Both are very well connected in government departments and Kay has twice been named Reporter of the Year at the British Press Awards. A veteran in his late 60s, he was persuaded by NI executives not to retire.

Following the previous arrests of other newsroom big hitters such as crime editor Mike Sullivan and district reporter Jamie Pyatt, famed for his Royal scoops from Windsor Castle, The Sun's editor must feel shorn of talent.

Mr Mohan edited the paper on Sunday and a bumper edition of 104 pages was produced, 16 more than usual. On page 12 came Mr Kavanagh's tirade.

In his article,he claimed it was common for journalists to pay for information and that Sun reporters were being treated like "suspected terrorists" for having done something that "has been standard procedure as long as newspapers have existed here and abroad".

In fact, the cash culture at NI tabloids has long been different from that on most other titles. In the period under investigation, many experienced Sun journalists became used to going to the ground floor "cashiers" to obtain wads of cash to entertain or pay contacts. In return for signed chits, sums of £500 or £1,000 were readily handed over by women sitting behind a screen of reinforced glass. One former NI executive said: "It was very tempting to go downstairs and reward your contact so that they didn't go off to a rival paper."

Mr Kavanagh also suggested that the Met investigation into journalistic malpractice was being "driven by politicians". The reality is that it is being propelled by detectives angry at the damage the phone hacking scandal and allegations of corrupt officers has caused to the Yard's reputation.

The ferocity of the police action has caused News Corp's MSC to plead with the Met to be less aggressive, a gesture which may be designed to quell dissent inside the company. The action does not guarantee respite. Suddenly The Sun, a title that for decades has fought with the Daily Mail to be considered "the copper's paper", finds itself being thoroughly turned over by the police.

Steve Richards opinion, page 16

Who's who: The rival camps

The Sun

Editor Dominic Mohan yesterday sanctioned one of his most senior writers, Associate Editor Trevor Kavanagh, to pen a provocative article criticising the investigation into the paper's journalists as a "witch hunt".

News International

With Britain's once most powerful newspaper stable in meltdown, News Corp veteran Tom Mockridge was called in to clean up the mess. But as the arrests continue, he is struggling to win the trust of the journalists under his command.

Standards Committee

Set up by News Corp following criticisms that the company had failed to react properly to the phone hacking scandal, the committee, headed by Lord Grabiner QC finds itself accused of going too far in probing bribery.

News Corp

As the phone hacking scandal escalated, News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch set up the Management & Standards Committee as a way of showing good corporate governance and giving his British newspapers a clean bill of health. Its findings have contributed to one title being closed and another now standing on the brink.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor