Agence France Presse
Published — Tuesday 8 January 2013
Last update 8 January 2013 12:07 am
LONDON: A British former counter-terrorism detective tried to sell information about a phone hacking investigation to the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World tabloid, her trial heard on Monday.
Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn, 53, is accused of offering the now-defunct newspaper information about a probe into whether Scotland Yard’s inquiry into the illegal hacking of mobile phones should be reopened.
She denies one count of misconduct in public office.
Southwark Crown Court in London heard that at the time of the alleged offense in September 2010, Casburn was working in the counter-terrorism unit, managing the National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit.
The jury heard that one of her team had been asked to carry out financial investigations as part of the phone hacking probe.
The prosecution alleges Casburn rang the News of the World’s news desk at 7:51 a.m. to offer information in exchange for payment.
Prosecutor Mark Bryant-Heron said: “The prosecution says she sought to undermine a highly sensitive and high-profile investigation at the point of its launch.
“The prosecution say... that the act of telephoning the News of the World to offer to sell information and the provision of some information during that call was misconduct, it was misconduct in public office.”
The newspaper did not publish a story about the call and no payment changed hands, the court heard.
Casburn admits making the phone call but denies asking for money.
She argues that she called because she was concerned that resources that were supposed to be used to combat terrorism were being allocated to the phone hacking investigation, and that much of the information was already public knowledge.
Tim Wood, the News of the World news editor who took the call, said Casburn also complained of interference from former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, a victim of hacking and a vocal Murdoch critic.
Wood told the jury: “The one thing that stands out in my mind is the fact that she kept going on about Lord Prescott.”
He said he recalled “her saying that he was pressing for them to put charges on the News of the World, and she was saying that she felt it was wrong that he was interfering in the scandal, so to speak, and she resented that.”
A News of the World reporter and a private investigator were jailed in 2007 for hacking the voice-mails of royal aides.
The tabloid denied there was a bigger problem, but when wider evidence of illegal hacking emerged in 2011 the investigation was re-opened.
Murdoch closed down the News of the World in July 2011 after revelations that it had hacked celebrities and the voice-mail of murdered teenage girl Milly Dowler.
The trial continues.