Senior British editor to be charged for payoffs
London: The deputy editor of The Sun tabloid owned by media baron Rupert Murdoch will be charged with authorising illegal payments to public officials in exchange for information.
The UK's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) today confirmed that Geoff Webster, one of the senior-most executives at the daily, will be charged with authorising two payments of 6,500 pounds and 1,500 pounds.
The charges come as part of Scotland Yard's Operation Elveden, a probe into illegal payments to public officials being carried out in conjunction with its phone-hacking inquiries.
The 53-year-old Webster will appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court here on March 26.
"We have concluded, following a careful review of the evidence, that Geoff Webster, who at the time of the alleged offending was Deputy Editor of The Sun newspaper, should be charged with two offences of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office, contrary to section 1(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977," Alison Levitt, QC, principal legal advisor to the Director of Public Prosecutions, said in a statement.
"The first offence relates to allegations that Mr Webster, between July 2010 and August 2011, authorised payments totalling 6,500 pounds for information supplied by a public official to one of his journalists," the statement said.
"The second offence relates to an allegation that in November 2010, Mr Webster authorised a payment of 1,500 pounds for information provided by an unknown public official," the statement added.
The CPS has also called on the media to be wary of reporting details of the case.
"He has a right to a fair trial. It is very important that nothing is said, or reported, which could prejudice that trial," it said.
Webster was appointed joint deputy editor of The Sun in 2009, having joined the paper in 2003 from the now-defunct News of the World tabloid also owned by Murdoch, where he was head of pictures.
He was arrested last February along with four other senior figures at the newspaper and three public officials.
So far, 61 people have been arrested under Operation Elveden and of them 12, including Webster, face court action.
The cases involve four former police officers, six journalists and two other public officials.
The investigations run alongside Operation Weeting, which was set up to investigate the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World, in which journalists illegally accessed the voicemails of hundreds of celebrities.
It led to a major overhaul of press regulation in the UK following the Leveson Inquiry report last November.