U.K. Public Officials Plead Guilty in News Corp. Bribe Case

Three former law enforcement officers and a public official pleaded guilty to taking bribes from News Corp.’s Sun tabloid, the first to confess to criminal charges in a wide-ranging probe into wrongdoing at the company’s U.K. newspapers.

Alan Tierney, 40, a former police officer in Surrey, England, pleaded guilty at a hearing in London today to selling details about “high profile” people to Sun journalists. Prison guard Richard Trunkfield, 31, pleaded guilty to accepting 3,350 pounds ($5,000) in 2010 for information about a prisoner.

A public official and a police officer, who the court said news can’t be identified, also pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit misconduct in public office.

Operation Elveden, the bribery probe that grew out of an investigation into phone hacking at News Corp. newspapers, has led to more than 60 arrests and 10 charges. The Sun is the main target of the bribery cases, while News Corp.’s other U.K. tabloid, the now-defunct News of the World, is at the center of the phone-hacking scandal.

Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive officer of News Corp.’s U.K. unit, and Andy Coulson, who edited the News of the World, also appeared at the hearing today.

John Kay, the Sun’s former chief reporter, pleaded not guilty to conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office.

Sentencing Hearing

Tierney was released on bail and will be sentenced March 27, Judge Adrian Fulford said. Trunkfield, also released on bail, will be sentenced at a later date.

April Casburn, a senior London police detective, was sentenced on Feb. 1 to 15 months in prison for trying to sell information about the phone-hacking probe to the News of the World. She was the first person sentenced in the cases.

News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch closed the News of the World in July 2011 after reports the tabloid intercepted the voice-mail messages of a murdered schoolgirl while police were investigating the crime.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.