Sun’s royal editor, Duncan Larcombe, charged over Sandhurst payments


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The Independent Online

The royal editor of The Sun newspaper has been charged over allegations that he paid more than £23,000 for stories about the Royal Family and Sandhurst military academy.

Duncan Larcombe, 37, is due to face court alongside John Hardy, 43, who served as a Colour Sergeant at the army’s officer training school in Berkshire, and his wife Claire Hardy, 39. It is alleged that 34 payments were made to either John or Claire Hardy between February 2006 and October 2008. Mr Larcombe denies the charges.

All three are to be charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office. A fourth person, Tracy Bell, 34, who was employed by the Ministry of Defence as a pharmacy assistant at the Sandhurst Medical Centre, is also charged with misconduct in a public office. The four will appear before Westminster magistrates on 8 May.

It is alleged that Ms Bell received £1,250 between 17 October 2005 and 7 July 2006 relating to five articles published in The Sun about Sandhurst. The charges cover a period when princes William and Harry were training there. Prince Harry entered the Royal Military Academy in May 2005 and completed his officer’s training in April 2006. William joined in January 2006 and graduated that December.

Last night, Malletts Solicitors, which is representing Mr Larcombe, said the journalist “categorically denies any wrongdoing and is entirely confident that the matter will be resolved and he will be exonerated in full.” It added: “He is extremely shocked and disappointed that he has been charged with this offence. Mr Larcombe is renowned within the industry as being an upright and trustworthy individual and fully expects to clear his name.”

Mike Darcey, the chief executive of The Sun’s parent company, News International, told staff in a memo that it would support Mr Larcombe and his family during the legal process.

“I appreciate this is a very troubling time for all of us that work with Duncan,” the note said. “We will not pre-judge the outcome.”

Thirteen people have faced or will face court action under Operation Elveden, Scotland Yard’s inquiry into alleged corrupt payments to public officials. They include four former  police officers, seven journalists and two others.

Last week, The Sun’s executive editor, Fergus Shanahan, 58, was charged with conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office.