The Sun's royal editor Duncan Larcombe to be charged over alleged payments to soldier


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The Independent Online

The Sun's royal editor Duncan Larcombe is to be charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office after allegedly paying more than £23,000 for stories relating to the Royal family, or military academy Sandhurst.

The Crown Prosecution Service said that Larcombe will be charged alongside John Hardy, who served as a Colour Sergeant at the Royal Military training Academy at Sandhurst, and his wife Claire Hardy.

All three are to be charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office between February 9, 2006 and October 16, 2008, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

The charges have come as a result of investigations under Operation Elveden, Scotland Yard's probe into alleged corrupt payments to public officials.

It is alleged that between February 10, 2006 and October 15, 2008, 34 payments were made to either John or Claire Hardy totalling more that £23,000, the CPS said.

Alison Levitt QC, principal legal adviser to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), said: “Following a careful review of the evidence, we have concluded that Duncan Larcombe, John Hardy and Claire Hardy should be charged with a conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.

"Duncan Larcombe was employed as chief royal correspondent at The Sun, John Hardy served as a colour sergeant based at the Royal Military Training Academy in Sandhurst and Claire Hardy is his wife."

A fourth person, Tracy Bell, who was employed by the Ministry of Defence as a pharmacy assistant at Sandhurst Medical Centre, is also to be charged with misconduct in public office, Ms Levitt announced.

"It is alleged that Tracy Bell received £1,250 between October 17, 2005 and July 7, 2006 relating to five articles published in The Sun regarding matters at Sandhurst," she said.

All four defendants are due to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on May 8.

There is insufficient evidence to charge a second member of the public with any criminal offence, Ms Levitt added.

"These decisions were considered carefully in accordance with the DPP's guidelines on the public interest in cases affecting the media," she said.

”These guidelines require prosecutors to consider whether the public interest served by the conduct in question outweighs the overall criminality before bringing criminal proceedings.“

The charges come as a former Surrey police officer today became the latest person to be arrested under Operation Elveden, which is being supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and is running in conjunction with phone-hacking inquiry Operation Weeting.

The 41-year-old man was arrested at 6am this morning at his home in Sussex on suspicion of misconduct in a public office, Scotland Yard said.

The arrest was the 62nd under Operation Elveden. Of those arrested so far, 13 people, including four former police officers, seven journalists and two other public officials, have or will face court action.

Last week Sun executive editor Fergus Shanahan, 58, from Dunmow in Essex, was charged with conspiring with a public official and a journalist to commit misconduct in a public office after allegedly authorising a journalist to make payments to a public official.

He is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on May 8.