A senior Scotland Yard counter-terrorism officer rang the News of the World (NOTW) to offer "highly sensitive" inside information about a police inquiry into phone hacking at the newspaper in exchange for a bribe, a court heard yesterday.
Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn, who ran the Met's financial investigations into terrorists, made the offer in an early-morning phone call to the paper days after her employers had launched a new investigation into voicemail interception at the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid, Southwark Crown Court was told.
The journalist who took the call, Tim Wood, subsequently relayed his version of the conversation in an email to two of the paper's most senior staff – news editor Ian Edmondson and crime editor Lucy Panton. He wrote: "A senior policewoman – no name given – wants to sell information on the phone-hacking inquiry."
Det Ch Insp Casburn, 53, from Essex, is on trial accused of committing misconduct in public office by engaging in behaviour that would lead to lower trust in the police "without reasonable excuse of justification".
She denies the charge, saying that while she did make the call she was acting as a whistle-blower who wanted to highlight the diverting of resources away from the fight against terrorism to less serious voicemail interception.
She denies that she asked for payment or disclosed any confidential information not already in newspaper reports. Her trial is expected to last three days.
At the opening yesterday, Mark Bryant-Heron, prosecuting, outlined how Det Ch Insp Casburn had contacted a readers' hotline for the NOTW at 7.51am on Saturday 11 September 2010. At the time she was in day-to-day charge of the Met's National Terrorist Financial Information Unit, which had seconded an officer to Operation Varec, the new inquiry into phone hacking established in the wake of a New York Times article alleging widespread wrongdoing at the NOTW.
Mr Bryant-Heron said: "In short, she tried to undermine a highly sensitive and high-profile investigation at the point of its launch."
Giving evidence, Mr Wood, said he feared the phone call might have been a hoax because it was "unusual".
April Cashburn's trial is the first involving the alleged lawbreaking at the now-closed News of the World.