Princes William and Harry may be approached to provide victim impact statements in the trial of a journalist accused of paying an army officer for information about their time at the Sandhurst Military Academy.
It would be the first time a senior Royal has been asked to assist a criminal case since the Queen was called in 2002 as a witness in the £1.5 million theft trial of butler Paul Burrell.
That trial collapsed when Her Majesty revealed he had told her he was looking after the belongings of Princess Diana.
Sun Royal correspondent Duncan Larcombe has been charged with paying £23,000 to a sergeant at Sandhurst, and his wife, for stories mainly relating to the Royal Family between 2006 and 2008.
Larcombe has said he will fight the charges “with every breath in my body”.
He is due to enter a plea at Southwark Crown Court this week and the full-trial could take place before the end of the summer – providing a major test for the Met’s Operation Elveden investigation into the actions of journalists.
So far more than 20 Sun journalists have been arrested on suspicion of making inappropriate payments to public officials. Larcombe has been charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office.
Press Gazette understands that a key aspect of such cases is establishing that actions went beyond being in the public interest, and caused genuine harm to a victim. Questions may be raised about whether the newspaper’s coverage of Princes William and Harry’s time at Sandhurst harmed them.
One typical article in The Sun from 2007 was headlined, “An Officer and a Gentleman”, and spoke about how Prince Harry had passed the tough course with flying colours.
During his recent tour of America, Harry is understood to have asked the Royal ‘pack’ of journalists where the missing Larcombe was, before recounting a humorous anecdote about the Sun’s Royal Editor.
Other stories, which are the subject of police investigations, involve notorious criminals and are about their times in prison – meaning that they could also be required to provide ‘victim impact statements’ in order for guilty verdicts to be returned.