8 January 2013
Last updated at 11:13 ET
April Casburn says she was angry her team was losing resources allocated to saving lives
An ex-counter-terrorism detective has told a court it was “ludicrous” to suggest she offered information to the News of the World for money.
Det Chief Insp April Casburn is accused over Operation Varec, which considered whether Scotland Yard’s inquiry into phone hacking should be reopened.
But she did not ask for money and was probably misheard by the NoW journalist, she said in a statement.
Ms Casburn denies one charge of misconduct in public office.
The charge relates to 11 September 2010 when Ms Casburn, 53, from Hatfield Peverel, Essex, was working in counter-terrorism, managing the National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit.
Southwark Crown Court heard that one of her team was asked to carry out financial investigations as part of a Scotland Yard inquiry into phone hacking.
It is alleged Ms Casburn rang the NoW’s news desk at 07.51 BST to offer information in exchange for payment.
She gave the names of two of the people under investigation during the conversation, it is said.
Appearing in court, Ms Casburn said: “I regret the decision.”
Asked by Patrick Gibbs QC, for Ms Casburn, whether she offered to sell inside information during her conversation with the NoW, she said: “No. I find the whole sentence ludicrous.”
In a written statement to the court, she said she did not need the money, and that her phone conversation had taken place on a busy road so her words could possibly have been misheard by the NoW journalist.
Addressing the court, Ms Casburn described how in 2010 she had been dealing with an acrimonious divorce and experienced a failed IVF procedure with her new partner.
That same year, one of her team was assigned to hacking without her knowledge, but she only discovered this later – after her charge, the court heard.
‘Bit of a jolly’
Ms Casburn said: “I felt very strongly that we shouldn’t be doing hacking. Our function was to prevent terrorist attacks and I was particularly worried that the behaviour of my colleagues was such that they thought it was a bit of a jolly.
“They thought it was all going to be a bit of fun, getting to travel, getting to see famous people.
“I felt sufficiently strongly we should not be diverting resources which are to do with saving people’s lives. It made me really angry,” she added.
Ms Casburn contacted the NoW on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on New York because of her frustration about this and it was “maybe the only option”, the court was told.
She felt she could not speak out against the phone-hacking investigation plans, which had been re-opened by the then assistant commissioner John Yates, the court heard.
‘Denied a desk’
“I didn’t believe I could make any difference to the decision-making around using counter-terrorist assets for the phone-hacking inquiry,” said Ms Casburn.
Describing the “very male-dominated” atmosphere at her unit, Ms Casburn likened it to the TV series Life On Mars in the 21st century.
Some male colleagues had frozen her out, playing golf together, and she was “denied a desk despite being a chief inspector,” the court was told.
Earlier, the court heard from Det Supt Dean Hayden who was the detective in charge of the 2010 hacking probe Operation Varec.
Scotland Yard launched Varec after a New York Times expose of phone hacking at tabloid papers, the court was told.
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