This week, editor of the Sun Dominic Mohan, told the Leveson enquiry “it is wrong to suggest that the Sun trivialises offences against women.” That must have come as breaking news to some of the long-suffering employees at the beleaguered paper.
One extremely frightened Wapping-based journalist, who spoke to me on the basis of anonymity, explained she “was terrified of my company.” The journalist explained that at least five female journalists at the paper had been sacked in the last eight years. At least two of the sacked women went on to win compensation after challenging their dismissals.
A company spokes person refused to comment on the sackings. I’d be happy to publish a comment should they change their mind.
Now the Sun’s shocking behaviour towards some of its female employees has reached Parliament. Whitehall editor at The Sun Clodagh Hartley, has recently had a complaint of bullying upheld by an independent adjudicator. According to a number of credible sources, the adjudicator found that her line manager, Sun political editor Tom Newton Dunn, was guilty of bullying. He remains in post. It is not known whether Hartley, currently on maternity leave will be returning to work.
When asked about the matter yesterday, Mr Newton Dunn said that he was unable to comment on the allegations. Warning me to be very careful what I publish, he claimed that all enquiries should be directed to a company press officer. Yet when I telephoned a spokesperson for the company, they also declined to comment, saying that it is a policy not to comment on staff matters. If the company, or indeed Mr Newton Dunn, care to comment on the allegations I would be delighted to publish their response.
One source in the parliamentary lobby tells me that Newton Dunn told colleagues that Hartley will not be returning to her post when her maternity leave ends. Newton Dunn, who is known to credit his female colleagues with phrases like “good girl”, may not be aware that Hartley has rights in employment law.
The situation will worry The Sun’s editor Dominic Mohan, who has a lot on his plate after the recent arrests of Mike Sullivan, the paper's crime editor; the former managing editor, Graham Dudman; executive editor, Fergus Shanahan; and Chris Pharo, a news desk executive.
Yet to lose Hartley from the political team could cause more embarrassment than Mohan imagines.
One of the paper's biggest ever political scoops was to obtain the contents of the Hutton report into the death of former UN weapons inspector David Kelly before publication. The paper splashed the story with the headline “Hutton Report Leaked” over a photograph of political editor Trevor Kavanagh holding a telephone. Kavanagh, who claimed he had been read the contents of the report over the telephone by an “impartial” source went on to tell the BBC “the source had nothing to gain financially or politically, no axe to grind, no vested interest". Kavanagh's reputation as a doyen of Fleet Street was cemented. The paper collected numerous awards that year including scoop of the year. The story helped Kavanagh collect the reporter of the year award at the newspaper industry’s equivalent to the oscars.
What an embarrassment it would be were Hartley, who got zero credit for the scoop, to reveal herself as the reporter that brought in the story.