LONDON: A senior British counter-terrorism police officer was found guilty yesterday 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 September 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.
Casburn was head of a counter-terrorism financial investigations unit at the time when she made the telephone call that led to her trial. There is no recording of Casburn’s call to the News of the World news desk 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.
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.
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 Association reported. Casburn will be sentenced later.