LONDON - A senior British counterterrorism detective committed a "gross breach" of public trust by trying to sell information to Rupert Murdoch's News of the World about the police investigation into the tabloid's illegal phone hacking, a prosecutor told a court on Monday.
Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn is charged with misconduct for allegedly phoning the newspaper and offering to pass on information about whether London's police force would reopen its stalled hacking investigation.
Prosecutor Mark Bryant-Heron told a jury at Southwark Crown Court that Casburn "sought to undermine a highly sensitive and high profile investigation" when she phoned the tabloid's news desk in September 2010 offering to pass on the information.
"It was a gross breach of the trust that the public places in a police officer not to disclose information on a current investigation in an unauthorized way, or to offer to do so in the future for payment," he said.
Prosecutors said the newspaper did not print a story based on her call and no money changed hands.
Casburn, 53, who managed the Metropolitan Police terrorist financing investigation unit, denies a charge of misconduct in public office. She also faces a charge of breaching the Official Secrets Act which will be dealt with separately.
The prosecutor said that in a police statement Casburn admitted phoning the newspaper but denied asking for money.
Tim Wood, the News of the World news editor who took the call, told the court that Casburn had expressed concern that counterterrorism resources were being diverted to the phone hacking investigation. He said she also complained of interference from former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, a hacking victim and vocal Murdoch critic.
"The one thing that stands out in my mind is the fact that she kept going on about Lord Prescott," Wood said. "Her saying that he was pressing for them to put charges on the News of the World, and she was saying that she felt it was wrong that he was interfering in the scandal, so to speak, and she resented that."
A News of the World reporter and a private investigator were jailed in 2007 for hacking into the voicemails of royal aides. But the newspaper denied there was a wider problem, and a police investigation did not lead to further charges.
Police reopened the investigation in early 2011 amid new evidence about the scale of the law-breaking.
Murdoch shut down the 168-year-old News of the World in July 2011 after revelations that it had regularly eavesdropped on the telephone voicemails of celebrities and crime victims in its search for scoops.
The scandal sparked a public inquiry and police investigations into phone hacking, bribery and other illegal practices that have seen dozens of people arrested.
Casburn is the first suspect to come to trial. Several others have been charged and await trial, including former Murdoch executive Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, an ex-communications chief to Prime Minister David Cameron.