Met officer guilty of leaking phone hacking details

Evening Standard |

A senior police officer faced jail today after being convicted of trying to sell details of the phone hacking inquiry to the News of the World.

Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment or an unlimited fine.

She will be sentenced later by Mr Justice Fulford at Southwark Crown Court.

Even after today’s verdict, Casburn still faces a further charge and internal police disciplinary proceedings which could lead to the sack.

At the end of a four-day trial Casburn was found guilty by the jury of misconduct in a public office.

The trial is the first of a series of high profile trials over illegally hacked phones and alleged backhanders to police and Government employees.

The jury was told that at 7.50am on a Saturday morning in September 2010 Casburn — then working for the National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit – rang the NoW newsdesk as she walked to Tesco Express.

The call was taken by overnight reporter Tim Wood at the end of his 13 hour shift who sent a report of his conversation to his boss.

Wood’s memo stated that Casburn was looking for money in return for providing the paper with an inside steer on the phone hacking inquiry.

In the witness box Wood admitted he could not remember her asking for money but he had got the impression that she wanted paying.

In the end the paper did not publish any of her information nor paid her any money.

Chief Superintendent Dean Hayden, the officer in charge of Operation Varec which was examining new evidence in the hacking scandal, told the jury that any leak of confidential information by Casburn could have been “damaging” to the investigation.

But Casburn told the court she had never asked for payment, had never offered any information about the inquiry other than what was already in the public domain.

She admitted giving the reporter her mobile number but insisted she had no intention of maintaining regular contact with the paper.

She told the jury of the “Life on Mars” culture among senior police officers who considered the new investigation to be a “jolly” with foreign travel and the chance to meet the likes of Sienna Miller.

She had been outraged that resources of the counter terrorism unit – already stretched by the combination of the 9/11 anniversary and the Muslim festival of Eid — was being diverted to track down NoW reporters and their alleged celebrity victims.

Hounded at work by “almost two years of bullying and intimidation” she thought her only outlet to bring her anger to the public’s attention was the press.

But in his summing up, the judge told the jury that the “real issue” in the case was whether Casburn had asked for money and whether her claim to have been angry at the diversion of resources from the fight against terrorism was correct.

Mother-of-three Casburn, 53 of Hatfield Perival, Essex, was arrested 15 months later in December 2011 after NoW lawyers released documents on the hacking scandal to police.

In May last year she admitted to detectives she had made a “foolish” decision to contact the paper but remained adamant she had not committed any criminal offence.

Casburn still faces a separate charge under the Official Secrets Act to be heard by magistrates. She is alleged to have taken home secret information without permission.