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British detective jailed in phone-hacking scandal

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[February 01, 2013]  LONDON (AP) -- A senior British counterterrorism detective was sentenced Friday to 15 months in prison for trying to sell information to Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid.

Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn, 53, was the first person convicted on charges related to Britain's phone-hacking scandal since a police investigation was reopened in early 2011.

She was found guilty last month of misconduct for phoning the tabloid and offering to pass on information about whether London's police force would reopen its stalled phone-hacking investigation.

Judge Adrian Fulford said Casburn's action was "a corrupt attempt to make money out of sensitive and potentially very damaging information."

Fulford, presiding at London's Old Baily criminal court, said he would have sentenced Casburn to three years in prison had she not been in the process of adopting a child.

While the tabloid did not print a story based on Casburn's call and no money changed hands, Fulford said that if the News of the World had accepted her offer, it was clear in his view that Casburn would have taken the money.

"As a result, she posed a significant threat to the integrity of this important police investigation," he said, calling it a "straightforward but troubling case of corruption."

London's Metropolitan Police said it was a "great disappointment" that Casburn, who managed its terrorist financing investigation unit, had abused her position.

"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," the force said in a statement.

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Casburn admitted contacting the newspaper but denied offerindg confidential information or seeking payment.

Britain's long-running phone-hacking scandal has led to dozens of arrests and to criminal charges against prominent journalists, including Prime Minister David Cameron's former communications chief. Other journalists, police officers and civil servants have been questioned about whether bribes were offered, solicited or accepted in exchange for information.

The phone hacking scandal has involved allegations of illegal snooping on celebrities, crime victims, politicians and others. Murdoch closed the News of the World tabloid in July 2011 after many of its misdeeds were exposed. His media company has also paid out millions to numerous victims to avoid lengthy and expensive trials.

A News of the World reporter and a private investigator were jailed in 2007 for hacking into the voicemails of royal aides. But the newspaper denied there was a wider problem and the police investigation was closed.

Police reopened the investigation in early 2011 as new evidence emerged about the scale of the law-breaking.

[Associated Press; By CASSANDRA VINOGRAD]

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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