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Private details about Princes William and Harry sold to ‘Godfather J’ from the Suburb, jury hears

PUBLISHED: 15:04 13 January 2015 | UPDATED: 15:04 13 January 2015

Former Sun chief reporter John Kay leaving the Old Bailey where he is charged with conspiring to pay Ministry of Defence employee Bettina Jordan-Barber around £100,000 for information. Picture: PA/Lewis Whyld

Former Sun chief reporter John Kay leaving the Old Bailey where he is charged with conspiring to pay Ministry of Defence employee Bettina Jordan-Barber around £100,000 for information. Picture: PA/Lewis Whyld

PA Archive/Press Association Images

A chief reporter from Hampstead Garden Suburb has gone on trial with other journalists accused of paying public officials for story tips, including “gossip and tittle-tattle” about Princes William and Harry.

While working for The Sun, John Kay, 71, of Asmuns Hill, received tips from Ministry of Defence (MoD) official Bettina Jordan-Barber, who made £100,000 by selling stories to him, the Old Bailey heard.

Prosecutor Michael Parroy, QC, said Kay maintained a “close and mutually beneficial” relationship with Jordan-Barber over a period of eight years.

In emails to then editor Rebekah Brooks, the chief reporter referred to her as his “number one military contact” while Jordan-Barber called him “Godfather J” in her mobile phone address book, the court heard.

She not only held a senior position compiling news briefings for the MoD, but her husband was an instructor at Sandhurst military academy around the time William and Harry were officer cadets.

Jordan-Barber allegedly used her access to sensitive information to give Kay details on army discipline and deaths in Afghanistan, as well as stories from Sandhurst about the princes.

Opening the trial, Mr Parroy said: “This trial is about greed. It is about public employees who were prepared, for money, to sell to the press stories which they had obtained in the course of their work.

“By this process they abused the trust placed in them by the public, you and I, to keep such private information private.”

He continued: “It is about the practices used by The Sun to obtain ‘scoops’ and ‘exclusives’, irrespective of the fact that the means of achieving this end involved the commission, by the journalists and the public officials, of criminal offences, the criminal offence of misconduct in public office.”

He went on: “The value placed on the information or material provided by these public officials was newsworthiness.

“Tittle-tattle and gossip about the Royal Princes, William and Harry, had a special value, as did titbits involving salacious or embarrassing conduct involving the revelation of such things as affairs between serving soldiers or their civilian counterparts; a ‘love triangle’.

“The other recurring theme is personal tragedy in the battlegrounds of Helmand province and Iraq.

“The public interest in such stories and involving such personal and private matters was often, you may conclude, marginal or non-existent.”

Kay is on trial alongside royal editor Duncan Larcombe, 39, of Aylesford, Kent, who was fed stories by former Colour Sergeant at Sandhurst, John Hardy, jurors were told.

While working at Sandhurst, Hardy was allegedly paid more than £23,700 for providing Larcombe with information on the princes and others on 34 occasions.

Also in the dock are executive editor Fergus Shanahan, 59, of Felsted, Essex, deputy editor Geoffrey Webster, 55, of Goudhurst, Kent, former Colour Sergeant John Hardy, 44, and his wife Claire Hardy, 41, of Accrington, Lancashire.

Kay, Shanahan, and Webster are jointly charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office between January 1, 2004, and January 31, 2012, by plotting with Jordan-Barber, of Shrivenham, Swindon.

Shanahan and Webster allegedly authorised payments, sometimes in consultation with Mrs Brooks, who was acquitted of plotting to commit misconduct in a public office.

Webster also faces a second count of conspiracy to commit misconduct with a serving officer in the armed forces between November 3 and 6, 2010.

John Hardy is charged with misconduct in a public office. Claire Hardy is accused of aiding and abetting him in the offence.

Larcombe is charged with aiding, abetting, counselling and procuring John Hardy in the offence.

All deny the charges against them.

The trial is expected to last for three months.

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