The London police detective accused of trying to sell details of a probe into phone hacking at News Corp.’s News of the World tabloid said she was driven by anger over the investigation’s use of counter-terrorism resources.
April Casburn, 53, told jurors on the second day of her criminal trial that she called the News of the World’s news desk on Sept. 11, 2010, with a tip about the perceived waste at the Metropolitan Police Service because she felt the hacking probe was diverting money away from saving lives.
“I felt very strongly that we shouldn’t be doing hacking,” Casburn, a detective chief inspector with the Met, said in testimony today. “Our function was to prevent terrorist attacks and I was particularly worried that the behavior of my colleagues was such that they thought it was a bit of a jolly -- they thought it was all going to be a bit of fun, getting to travel, getting to see famous people.”
Casburn, who was charged last year with misconduct in public office, is the first person on trial since the start of three police investigations into wrongdoing at News Corp.’s U.K. newspapers, including the interception of voice mail messages for celebrities such as actors Hugh Grant and Angelina Jolie. More than 80 people have been arrested.
News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch closed the News of the World in July 2011 to help quell public anger over the phone-hacking scandal, while the bribery probe has focused on his Sun tabloid, Britain’s best-selling daily newspaper.
Casburn, who led a unit probing the financing of terrorism, called the News of the World to reveal that a new phone-hacking probe had started and six potential suspects were linked to the tabloid, prosecutor Mark Bryant-Heron said in court yesterday.
The investigation was prompted by news articles suggesting an earlier phone-hacking probe of the News of the World in 2006 had failed to uncover the extent of the illegal practice.
Casburn admits making the call and says she didn’t seek a bribe. The News of the World didn’t print the information or take her up on her alleged offer to trade secrets for cash.
“What you are doing here is whetting the News of the World’s appetite,” Bryant-Heron told Casburn today. “You anticipated an ongoing corrupt relationship didn’t you?”
Casburn replied that “I did not want money, I had no need for money.”
Dean Haydon, the police detective who led the 2010 probe into News Corp., said today Casburn wasn’t authorized to release information about the probe, even if some details had become public in newspaper articles citing unnamed sources.
“Clearly there were police leaks or journalists jumping to conclusions,” Hayden testified. “The important thing for me, leading this investigation, is that I wanted to be in the driving seat for what we did, how we did it, and when we did it.”
One of the suspects Casburn discussed was Andy Coulson, the tabloid’s former editor who was then the chief press aide to Prime Minister David Cameron. Coulson resigned from Cameron’s staff in 2011 and was later charged in the phone-hacking and bribery probes.
Casburn only gave the names of two of the six suspects, and all of them had been identified by journalists in articles about the scandal, her lawyer, Patrick Gibbs, said today.
Two days before the phone call, “all of these six names appeared to be, in one form or another, repeatedly referred to in the public domain,” Gibbs said.
At the time, Casburn was under stress and being bullied at work in a male-dominated environment, Gibbs said. Casburn said the situation made her feel the best option for airing her concerns was to go to the press.
The phone call “clearly wasn’t a good idea, but I still feel that sometimes this is the only course of action open to someone,” Casburn said. She broke into tears during her testimony today, saying she was worried she would lose custody of her child as a result of the criminal charges.