New details of illegal cash culture at Murdoch's tabloid

New details of illegal cash culture at Murdoch's tabloid

New revelations by the police today pointed to a ''culture of illegal payments'' at media baron Rupert Murdoch's Sun tabloid for information to be used in sensational stories.

Appearing before the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press, Sue Akers, deputy assistant commissioner at Scotland Yard, said there was "a culture at The Sun of illegal payments".

Akers, who is heading three police inquiries related to the phone-hacking controversy, said the payments had been made not only to corrupt police officials for information but also to officials holding office in various departments.

In a day that saw more out-of court settlements with Murdoch's company, Akers said payments had been made to a "network of corrupted officials", who were not in contact with each other, but whom journalists contacted for information.

Akers added that the vast majority of the payments to public officials led to "salacious gossip" and breaches of trust and privacy rather than stories in the public interest.

She said the police hoped to arrest the concerned public officials in future.

She said one public official received more than 80,000 pounds over several years, while one journalist received more than 150,000 pounds in cash to pay sources, a number of whom were public officials.

There was also the "trade craft" involving hiding payment to sources by making them to a friend or relative of the source.

It was authorised at "very senior level" within the newspaper, she added.

The second phase of the Leveson Inquiry – looking into the relationship between the press and the police – began today with Justice Leveson paying tributes to Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin who was killed in Syria 22 February.

"There is no better example of the very best in journalism than that provided by Marie Colvin," Lord Justice Leveson said, and added that her death had underlined "the need to preserve free speech and free press".

He said: "I have repeatedly emphasised the vital role that responsible journalism plays in our society and I have recognised that the overwhelming majority of journalists work to high standards day after day." 

In the high court, singer Charlotte Church and her parents today agreed damages and costs of 600,000 pounds with News Group Newspapers - publishers of the defunct News of the World.