Four Sun journalists held over payments to police

Arrests of existing and former senior staff are linked to information passed to Scotland Yard by employers News International

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The Independent Online

Scotland Yard detectives were last night questioning four Sun journalists, together with a serving police officer, in connection with a major corruption inquiry. The five were arrested yesterday at addresses in London and Essex in the largest police raid involving News International journalists.

The four journalists arrested include Mike Sullivan, the Sun's long-serving crime editor, Fergus Shanahan, the newspaper's executive editor, Chris Pharo, a senior news editor, and Graham Dudman, its former managing editor. The police officer , believed to be a member of the Metropolitan Police's Territorial Policing Command, was arrested while on duty at a central London police station. All were arrested on suspicion of corruption, misconduct in public office and conspiracy in relation to both offences.

The offices of the newspaper at Wapping in east London were also searched as police sought evidence about its news-gathering methods. Police stressed the arrests were not about "seeking journalists to reveal confidential sources in relation to information that has been obtained legitimately".

The arrests were part of Operation Elveden, which is investigating the relationship between police and the press. Yesterday's arrests were said to concern "suspected payments to police officers". Operation Elveden was launched as the phone-hacking scandal erupted last July but these latest arrests are not connected to phone hacking.

Last November, police arrested Jamie Pyatt, an experienced Sun reporter, in connection with separate corruption allegations.

The latest arrests are understood to have followed information passed to Scotland Yard by News International itself. News Corporation, the parent company of News International which owns The Sun and The Times, said yesterday that the company had "commissioned [its] management and standards committee (MSC) to undertake a review of all News International titles, regardless of cost, and to proactively co-operate with law enforcement and other authorities if potentially relevant information arose at those titles. As a result of that review, which is ongoing, the MSC provided information to the Elveden investigation which led to arrests." It is understood the company passed on internal emails and other financial information.

The standards committee, which is investigating journalistic practices at other News International titles, has provoked widespread anger among journalists at Wapping. Several have protested strongly and warned that morale has been undermined.

Tom Mockridge, News International's chief executive, said in an internal email sent to staff yesterday that the committee's investigation was ongoing. He added: "We are determined that News International will emerge a stronger and more trusted organisation."

The arrests yesterday mean that 13 people have been taken into custody, including two former editors of The News of the World, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson.

Deborah Glass, deputy chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is overseeing Operation Elveden, said: "It will be clear from today's events this investigation is following the evidence. I am satisfied with the strenuous efforts being made to identify police officers who may have taken corrupt payments."