LONDON (Reuters) - The head of news at Rupert Murdoch’s British Sun tabloid is to be charged with authorizing illegal payments to police and army officials, prosecutors said on Monday, the latest senior figure from the media mogul’s newspapers to face criminal charges.
Chris Pharo is to be charged with conspiring with prison officers, including those based at a high-security psychiatric hospital, police officers from three forces, and British army officers to commit misconduct in a public office.
Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service also said in a statement Lucy Panton, the former crime editor at Murdoch’s now defunct News of the World title, would be charged over illicit payments to a prison officer and his ex-partner.
Dozens of current and former staff from Murdoch’s Sun and News of the World newspapers have been arrested since detectives relaunched an investigation in early 2011 into allegations journalists had repeatedly hacked into voicemails of mobile phones to find exclusive stories.
Inquiries later were extended to cover allegations journalists paid cash to public officials in return for information for exclusive stories.
The Sun’s deputy editor is among those to have been charged, while Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, both former News of the World editors and close associates of Prime Minister David Cameron, are due to go on trial in September accused of offences relating to phone-hacking and illegal payments.
Last week, a recording of a private meeting between Murdoch and Sun staff was released in which he belittled the police investigation and vowed to support those who had been accused of wrongdoing.
Murdoch, who closed the News of the World in the aftermath of the hacking scandal and made profuse public apologies as News Corp (NWSA.O) attempted to deal with public anger, also said he had been wrong to help the police investigate tactics he said reporters had used for decades.
In the statement, prosecutors said the charges against Panton related to illegal payments made to Scott Chapman, a prison officer who worked at a high security jail.
He is accused of being paid more than 35,000 pounds ($52,300) by seven national newspapers in return for information about a high-profile inmate between March 2010 and June 2011.
Thomas Savage, deputy news editor at the Daily Star on Sunday, a title unconnected with Murdoch, would also be charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office, the Crown Prosecution Service said.
($1 = 0.6695 British pounds)
Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Alison Williams