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Tabloid journalist cleared of paying police officer for stories

A tabloid newspaper journalist and a detective have been cleared of having a corrupt relationship.

A tabloid newspaper journalist and a detective have been cleared of having a corrupt relationship.

Neville Thurlbeck, the News of the World's chief crime reporter, and Detective Constable Richard Farmer were cleared of conspiracy to corrupt after a judge at Luton Crown Court ruled there was no case for either to answer. Both men were cleared on Tuesday, two weeks into their trial, but the case could not be reported until yesterday because of legal restrictions.

Det Con Farmer, who works for Hertfordshire Police but was seconded to the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) at the time of the alleged offences, and Mr Thurlbeck had both pleaded not guilty.

The prosecution had alleged that Mr Thurlbeck, 38, paid Det Con Farmer to supply information on people whose details were kept on confidential police computer records. Jurors were told Det Con Farmer, 53, made scores of police computer checks on people's criminal records for Mr Thurlbeck.

Stephen Kramer QC, for the prosecution, cited 36 stories in the News of the World which he said contained information supplied by Det Con Farmer, including: a Labour MP with a conviction for committing an obscene act; an alleged threat to the Queen from stalkers; a story about a man said to be involved with the mass murderer Rosemary West; and a priest with convictions for sex offences. He said the recorded outgoings of Det Con Farmer and his wife dropped between the start of 1997 and mid-1998, suggesting he had an alternative source of cash.

Mr Justice McKinnon directed the jury to acquit Mr Thurlbeck and Det Con Farmer, after hearing the prosecution evidence. He said there was not enough evidence for the jury to be sure Det Con Farmer supplied information to Mr Thurlbeck for reward. Det Con Farmer could still face police disciplinary action.