Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Reporter charged in payments probe

Detectives from Scotland Yard have arrested a former Surrey police officer in connection with the investigation into alleged payments to public officials

The Sun's chief royal correspondent has been charged with allegedly paying public officials for stories about the Royal Family and Sandhurst military academy.

Duncan Larcombe, 37, is alleged to have paid more than £23,000 to John Hardy, 43, who served as a Colour Sergeant at the Royal Military Training Academy at Sandhurst, and his 39-year-old wife Claire Hardy, for stories relating mainly to the Royal Family or matters at Sandhurst.

All three have been charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office between February 9, 2006 and October 16, 2008, Scotland Yard said.

A fourth person, Tracey Bell, 34, who was employed by the Ministry of Defence as a pharmacy assistant at Sandhurst Medical Centre, is charged with misconduct in a public office.

The charges have come as a result of investigations under Operation Elveden, Scotland Yard's probe into alleged corrupt payments to public officials.

Announcing the decision to bring charges, the CPS said it is alleged that between February 10, 2006 and October 15, 2008, 34 payments were made to either John or Claire Hardy totalling more than £23,000.

Bell allegedly received £1,250 between October 17, 2005 and July 7, 2006 relating to five articles published in The Sun regarding matters at Sandhurst, said Alison Levitt QC, principal legal adviser to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

"These decisions were considered carefully in accordance with the DPP's guidelines on the public interest in cases affecting the media," she said. "These guidelines require prosecutors to consider whether the public interest served by the conduct in question outweighs the overall criminality before bringing criminal proceedings."

Larcombe, of High Street, Aylesford, Kent; John and Claire Hardy, of Millbrook Close, Oswaldthistle, Lancashire; and Bell, of Co-Operative Street, Goldthorpe, South Yorkshire, are all due to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on May 8.

It was also announced on Wednesday that a 32-year-old man, who was due to answer bail later this month, will face no further police action. The CPS said there was insufficient evidence to charge the man, a member of the public, with any criminal offence.

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