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First cop jailed in probe into ethics at Murdoch tabloid

Alastair Grant / AP, file

Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn of the London Metropolitan Police was jailed for offering to sell Rupert Murdoch's now-defunct News of the World information about an investigation into phone hacking.

LONDON -- A senior British counterterrorism police officer was jailed on Friday after becoming the first person to be convicted following a massive police investigation into alleged phone-hacking centered on Rupert Murdoch's British newspapers.

Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn, 53, was jailed for 15 months for misconduct in a public office after she was found guilty last month of offering to sell details about the phone-hacking inquiry to Murdoch's now-defunct News of the World tabloid.

"It was ... a corrupt attempt to make money out of sensitive and potentially very damaging information," said Justice Adrian Fulford.

Senior judge Brian Leveson remarks on the findings of his yearlong inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal that shook up British media.

Casburn called the News of the World on Sept. 11, 2010, when police were in the early stages of examining claims that journalists from the paper had illegally accessed the voicemails of mobile phones in a bid to find stories.

Prosecutors said she phoned asking for money in an attempt to undermine the investigation because of her perception that she had been wronged and sidelined by police colleagues.

She denied asking for payment and said her intention was to raise the alarm over what she viewed as a waste of counterterrorism 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.

Casburn, head of a counterterrorism financial investigations unit at the time, testified that she had been incensed by the attitude of senior officers, who regarded the hacking probe as "a bit of a jolly" and a chance to interview celebrity hacking victims such as the actress Sienna Miller.

The judge, however, said her actions could not be described as those of a whistle-blower, adding that if she were not in the process of adopting a child, he would have jailed her for three years.

"If the News of the World had accepted her offer, it's clear, in my view, that Ms Casburn would have taken the money and, as a result, she posed a significant threat to the integrity of this important police investigation," Fulford said.

Detectives are now not only investigating these allegations, but also whether journalists paid cash to public officials, including police officers, for information.

Casburn is the first person to be convicted in a scandal that escalated into a much wider crisis embroiling the top echelons of the British establishment, media, and police, and led to Murdoch closing down the News of the World in July 2011.


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