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Leveson Inquiry: Scale of corruption at The Sun is exposed

By Martin Hickman, Sam Marsden and Brian Farmer

Senior executives at The Sun spun a web of corruption across British public life, channelling hundreds of thousands of pounds into a network of crooked police and officials, according to the lead officer in Scotland Yard's investigations into the press.

In sensational evidence at the Leveson Inquiry into media standards, the Metropolitan Police's Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Sue Akers, revealed that a “culture of illegal payments” had taken grip of Britain's best-selling newspaper.

The day after Rupert Murdoch launched The Sun on Sunday — replacing the News of the World — Ms Akers said bribery was “openly” discussed at The Sun and that its journalists were well aware they were breaking the law.

“Multiple payments” were made to public officials in the Government, police, military, prisons and health service, Ms Akers said.

One public official was paid around £80,000 over a period of years and a Sun journalist received more than £150,000 to pay “sources”, she said, adding that the bribery was not unearthing stories in the public interest but “salacious gossip”.

In the past month, nine senior journalists on The Sun have been arrested by the anti-corruption inquiry Operation Elveden, as the police step up their criminal investigations into apparently rampant law-breaking at News International's headquarters in Wapping, east London.

Giving evidence at the start of the Leveson Inquiry's exploration of the relationship between the police and the press, Ms Akers said: “The current assessment of the evidence is that it reveals a network of corrupted officials. There appears to have been a culture at The Sun of illegal payments and systems created to facilitate those payments.”

She said payments had been made by journalists who were “well aware” that “what they were doing was unlawful”. The payments were not for hospitality — as claimed by some Sun journalists — but were “regular, frequent and sometimes significant” and included “multiple payments amounting to thousands of pounds”, she said.

Later, Lord Prescott told the inquiry he believed there was a “conspiracy of silence” among police to hide the facts about the extent of phone hacking.

Although Scotland Yard were investigating the alleged hacking of the former deputy prime minister’s phone in 2006, he was not told his aide Joan Hammell's messages may have been targeted until February 2011.

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