Hacking trial: The Sun allegedly paid retired senior officers for military information, Old Bailey hears


Political Correspondent

Retired senior officers from Britain’s armed forces who were hired by "The Sun" newspaper to write expert opinion articles were also paid for military-related information they supplied to the Murdoch-owned paper, the Old Bailey has heard.

Details of the payments emerged during cross-examination of the former chief executive of News International, Rebekah Brooks.

In reply to a question from the lead prosecuting counsel, Andrew Edis QC, Ms Brooks accepted that she effectively “acted as a rubber stamp” by fast-tracking payments that were later discovered to have gone to public officials.

Ms Brooks has denied that she knowingly authorised payments totaling more than £80,000 that was paid to a single source who worked inside the Ministry of Defence.

She repeatedly told the court that she assumed payments requested by a senior Sun reporter for insider military information that often led to Sun exclusives and front page scoops, had not come from a public official.

She told the court that although the Sun operated a system which allowed money to be transferred to a Thomas Cook account and then later picked up in cash, this “did not equal something dodgy going on".

Ms Brooks told the court that the reporter who sent her emails asking for payments for a “number one military source” and “ace military contact” was “passionate, highly experienced and knew the rules”.

She said the reporter provided The Sun with “thousands of military stories every year”. The court has previous heard a description of the journalist as a “story machine”.

Mr Edis said that if anyone had read the sequence of payment requests from the reporter, they would have known there was a clear risk the money was going to a public official. 

Ms Brooks replied: “That’s not how I read them." She said she had assumed that the reporter knew it was illegal to make payments to public officials, and that as he had a “plethora of contacts”, not all the payments were to the same individual.

Ms Brooks was directly asked: “You didn’t do your job [of asking where the money was going to], because you thought he [the reporter] was doing his?”

She told the court she had done her job, adding: “What I didn’t do was read the emails and see potential criminality involved.”

The judge, Mr Justice Saunders, intervened asking Ms Brooks if she had ever asked the reporter “what category of person” the information was coming from? She replied: “No, I didn’t.”

Asked by the prosecution if retired senior military personnel who had been hired to write opinion columns for The Sun, also sold the paper information connected to the military, Ms Brooks replied: “Yes”.

Ms Brooks has been charged with authorising 11 identified payments totaling £38,000 to Bettina Jordan Barber over a three year period during which she edited Rupert Murdoch’s Sun.

Jordan Barber worked for the army secretariat in Andover and had been vetted to allow her to analyse information collated for government briefings.

Ms Brooks was also questioned about payments made to police officers. She told the court that she never knowingly paid for information, or sanctioned payments that went to police officers in return for information that had been acquired in the course of carrying out their duties.

She also denied The Sun ever made payments to police officers “during the time of my editorship".

She told the court: “There isn’t one journalist in Fleet Street who does not know that you don’t pay police officers.

Ms Brooks has previously told the court that she operated a “high bar” for reporters who broke the law in the course of researching a story and this only occurred when there was “overwhelming” evidence of the action being in the public interest.

Mr Edis put it to her that public interest played little or no role when it came to paying officials or the police for stories that aided The Sun’s commercial success. He said that none of the emails shown to the court, which requested payments for contacts or sources, had mentioned “public interest”.

He told Ms Brooks: “None of these people were saying ‘listen boss, it would be in the public interest to make these payments because of A,B,C, D or E'."

Ms Brooks said such assessments were made by department heads and other executives at The Sun all the time.

Ms Brooks is among six defendants accused of conspiracy to hack phones, bribery of public officials and of involvement in a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. All deny the charges against them.

The case continues.


Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
peopleLynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance moves audience to tears
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon


Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London