A senior detective was jailed for 15 months yesterday in the first conviction brought under fresh investigations into corruption and phone hacking.
Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn was sentenced at the Old Bailey for misconduct in public office for offering to sell information to the News of the World (NotW).
The 53-year-old was jailed despite being in the process of adopting a child with her partner. Questions were also raised about why she was apparently not protected as a journalistic source.
Casburn called the NotW on September 11, 2010 and offered to sell information about the new investigation into phone hacking.
Passing sentence, Mr Justice Fulford told her it was “a corrupt attempt to make money out of sensitive and potentially very damaging information”.
The judge said that if she had not been involved in the adoption process he would have jailed her for three years.
He said her offence could not be described as whistle-blowing, and continued: “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.”
The judge went on: “Activity of this kind is deeply damaging to the administration of criminal justice in this country. It corrodes the public’s faith in the police force, it can lead to the acquittal or the failure by the authorities to prosecute individuals who have committed offences whether they are serious or otherwise.
“We are entitled to expect the very highest standards of probity from our police officers, particularly those at a senior level.
“It is, in my judgment, a very serious matter indeed when men or women who have all the benefits, privileges and responsibilities of public office use their position for corrupt purposes.”
Casburn, from Hatfield Peverel in Essex, claimed she contacted the tabloid because she was concerned about counter-terror resources being wasted on the phone-hacking inquiry, which her colleagues saw as “a bit of a jolly”.
During her trial at Southwark Crown Court last month, Casburn likened the male-dominated counter-terrorism unit to the TV series Life on Mars.
But the judge rejected her difficulties at work as an explanation for her behaviour.
He said: “It seems to me this is a straightforward but troubling case of corruption.
“The most that could be said is that she was a relative newcomer to this area of police work. As a result she may have felt something of an outsider.”
The detective denied asking for money, but the journalist she spoke to, Tim Wood, said in an email that she “wanted to sell inside information”.
Yesterday Mr Justice Fulford said: “It seems to me Mr Wood was a reliable, honest and disinterested witness. He had absolutely no reason to lie.”
Writing for website Exaro yesterday, Mr Wood said that he felt “sympathy” for Casburn.
He and Scotland Yard have claimed that News Corporation’s standards committee handed his email to police.
He said News International “broke the first rule of journalism by failing to protect a confidential source”.
Mr Wood wrote: “It is one of many confidential emails handed over by News International’s management and standards committee (MSC), resulting in arrests of both public officials and journalists.
“The MSC was established to counter damaging claims of a cover-up at News International over phone hacking.
“But I believe that it has gone too far, betraying more confidential sources than any other body or person in the history of journalism.”
Casburn was facing a separate charge under the Official Secrets Act, but the prosecution offered no evidence in that matter.
Scotland Yard said disciplinary proceedings against the officer will begin.
The force said in a statement: “We hope that the 15-month prison sentence handed down to this officer sends a strong message that the leaking of confidential information for personal gain is absolutely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”