The Sun's deputy editor Geoff Webster charged over illicit payments to officials


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The Independent Online

Geoff Webster, the deputy editor of The Sun, has been charged in connection with allegedly authorising payments of up to £8,000 to public officials for information used by journalists on the leading News International title.

The alleged offences, announced by the Crown Prosecution Service, relate to a period between 2010 and 2011 when Scotland Yard had reopened its phone hacking investigation into the News of the World and David Cameron’s ordering of the Leveson Inquiry which examined  on practices inside the national press.

The first offence involves allegations that Mr Webster, between July 2010 and August 2011, authorised payments totalling £6,500 to a public official  in return for information supplied to a Sun journalist.

A second offence relates to an allegation that in November 2010, Mr Webster authorised a payment of £1,500 for information provided by another public official.

Neither official has been named.

The Sun executive is due to appear at Westminster magistrates' court next week.

Disclosure of internal email data by News International to Scotland Yard has apparently led to the arrest of  24 Sun staff.

The charging of Mr Webster means evidence from Operation Elveden -  which is  investigating alleged bribes paid to public officials - has led to 12 people being charged.

That number could rise further after the Metropolitan Police announced they had widened Elveden's remit. The Met team is thought to be looking at the passing of confidential or official information to journalists where no money is alleged to have been involved.

Mr Webster was arrested last February, along with four other Sun employees including the paper’s chief reporter John Kay, who was later charged. Mr Kay has since pleaded not guilty.

Mike Darcey, the chief executive of News International, told staff in an internal email that Mr Webster was a "long-standing and valued colleague" and that NI would be supporting him throughout the legal process.

Staff were reminded by Mr Darcey that they would still be producing "Britain's most popular paper" in difficult conditions. He said he was grateful for the staff’s “resilience and dedication.”

Last year, The Sun’s former editor Rebekah Brooks, who edited the paper between 2003 and 2009, was charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office. In January, the paper's defence editor, Virginia Wheeler, was charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.