The Sun’s defence editor Virginia Wheeler today became the fifth Sun journalist to face charges arising from the phone hacking scandal which closed its sister paper, the News of the World.
Prosecutors claimed the Sun had paid £6,450 to a Scotland Yard officer in return for sensitive information about police inquiries including one into the “tragic” death of a 14-year-old girl.
Details about “high-profile individuals” and “victims of accidents, incidents and crimes” were also supplied to the Sun by PC Paul Flattley in the three years to September 2011, the Crown Prosecution Service said.
Ms Wheeler and Mr Flattley, who has now left the force, were charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.
The charges arise from Operation Elveden, Scotland Yard’s inquiry into corruption of public officials by journalists at News International, Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspaper group.
So far it has made 56 arrests and brought eight charges, including three others against current or former Sun staff.
In November, the former paper’s ex-editor Rebekah Brooks and chief reporter, John Kay, were charged over allegations that the Sun paid £100,000 to a senior defence official, Bettina Jordan Barber.
Andy Coulson, a former Sun reporter who became the Prime Minister’s spokesman, has been accused of approving a payment to a police officer for Royal phone numbers during his editorship of the News of the World.
Cheryl Carter, the Sun’s former beauty editor and Mrs Brooks’ former PA, has been charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice.
Ms Wheeler, a long-serving member of the Sun’s staff who impressed editors with her reporting from war zones, was arrested last March.
The CPS received a file from the Metropolitan Police about her and Mr Flattley on 17 December.
In a statement, Alison Levitt, QC, CPS senior advisor, said the Sun was alleged to have paid Mr Flattley £4,000 in cheques and £2,450 cash between 25 May 2008 and 13 September 2011, “in exchange for information provided in breach of the terms of his employment.”
She went on: “The information provided included information about the tragic death of a 14-year-old girl, as well as details about both suspects and victims of accidents, incidents and crimes. This included, but was not limited to, information about high profile individuals and those associated with them.”
Ms Levitt, who is overseeing all prosecutions arising from phone hacking and related investigations, added that she had considered the case carefully according to the guidance on charging journalists issued by Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer.
The guidance, she said, “asks prosecutors to consider whether the public interest served by the conduct in question outweighs the overall criminality before bringing criminal proceedings.”
Ms Wheeler and Mr Flattley are due to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court for a preliminary hearing on a date to be announced shortly.