LONDON Jan 10 A senior British
counter-terrorism police officer was found guilty on Thursday of
misconduct in public office over a call to the News of the World
to discuss an investigation into phone-hacking by its reporters.
April Casburn, 53, a detective chief inspector, rang up the
tabloid newspaper on Sept. 11, 2010, and disclosed various
details of a confidential police probe that had just been
launched and was the subject of intense media speculation.
Casburn's case was the first criminal trial to arise out of
a web of police investigations connected to the hacking scandal,
which was in its early stages in September 2010 but later
escalated into a much wider crisis affecting British media,
politics and police. The News of the World was shut down by its
owner, Rupert Murdoch, in July 2011.
The prosecution accused Casburn of asking the paper for
money and said her call was a "malicious" attempt to undermine
the investigation because of her perception that she had been
wronged and sidelined by police colleagues.
Casburn denied asking for payment. She said her intention
was to raise the alarm over what she viewed as a waste of
counter-terrorism resources on hacking when they should have
been concentrating on preventing attacks in the run-up to the
anniversary of the Sept.11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
She testified that she had been incensed by the attitude of
senior officers who regarded the hacking probe as "a bit of a
jolly" because it was an opportunity to interview celebrity
hacking victims like the actress Sienna Miller.
After hearing three days of evidence and arguments, a jury
at London's Southwark Crown Court returned a verdict of guilty
on one count of misconduct in public office, the Press
Casburn will be sentenced later.
"WANTS TO SELL INSIDE INFO"
Casburn was head of a counter-terrorism financial
investigations unit at the time when she made the telephone call
that led to her trial.
The hacking scandal was revving up after a New York Times
article on Sept. 1, 2010, alleged widespread wrongdoing at the
paper. The police were under intense pressure to investigate the
allegations contained in the article.
There is no recording of Casburn's call to the News of the
World newsdesk early on a Saturday morning, but the reporter who
took her call wrote a summary of what she said in an email he
sent to his editor a quarter of an hour afterwards.
The reporter, Tim Wood, wrote that Casburn wanted "to sell
inside info". Casburn denied this in court, saying Wood must
have misheard or misunderstood. Her lawyer suggested that he may
have jumped to the conclusion that she wanted money because it
was common practice at the paper to pay for stories.
Wood's email said Casburn had disclosed that police wanted
to interview six people connected to the News of the World
including Andy Coulson, a former editor of the paper who by then
was head of communications for Prime Minister David Cameron.
Casburn argued that this was not damaging to the police
investigation because the six people's names had been all over
the papers for more than a week and it was widely expected that
police would talk to them.
But the prosecution said it was "disgraceful" for a senior
police officer to reveal any inside information about an
investigation to the very newspaper that was the subject of the
Regardless of whether she wanted money for the information
or not, the prosecution said the phone call was a gross breach
of the public trust in the police.