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  1. Media Law
February 11, 2013updated 12 Feb 2013 4:56pm

The seven-minute phone call that led to 15 months in jail for Met detective

By Andrew Pugh

The brother of convicted Met Police detective April Casburn believes his sister would have been celebrated instead of jailed if her case had been heard in the United States.

Casburn was sentenced to 15 months in Holloway Prison last week after being found guilty of misconduct in a public office for offering to sell information to the News of the World.

She strongly denies asking for money when she approached the paper in September 2010, telling Southwark Crown Court she wanted to expose the diversion of police resources from the counter-terrorism division into a new phone-hacking investigation.

Casburn called the paper on 11 September – the anniversary of the New York terrorist attack – after former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott allegedly began applying pressure on the Met to reopen its investigation into hacking after fresh allegations appeared in The New York Times.

At the time of the call Casburn was in charge of the National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit within the Yard’s SO15 counter-terrorism command and one of the officers working under her had been seconded to hacking inquiry Operation Varek.

“The feedback I get from the USA is that had any senator done what Prescott did, he would have been the one that had gone and the policeman who reported it would have been celebrated for protecting the United States on September 11 from terrorist attacks,” Phillip Casburn told Press Gazette.

“My sister was in London on 7/7 and had to run around from one bombsite to another. If you’ve lived through this kind of scenario then it’s going to follow you.

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“She got to the point where she thought, I’ve got to blow the whistle on somebody; I feel that it’s in the public interest to know that we’re being made unsecure on a high priority day.”

Phillip, who served in the armed forces for seven years, insists his sister did not ask for cash when she contacted the NoW, saying she comes from a “big law and order family” and would not have needed the money anyway.

Their father served in the forces for 27 years and was later in the prison service for a further 18 years, where their other sister also works.

The family were shocked when the judge, Mr Justice Fulford, sentenced her to 15 months, describing the case as a “straightforward but troubling case of corruption”.

In his sentencing remarks Fulford said that while it was “credible” Casburn may have disagreed with resources being diverted, no police officer could take it upon 

frustration and disagreements in this way”.

Phillip Casburn

She would have been jailed for three years were it not for the fact she and her husband were at an advanced stage in the process of adopting a child, the judge said.

“We were expecting something like a two-year suspended sentence because she represents no danger to the public at all, zero,” said Phillip. “Who’s scared of April Casburn? She’s not a rapist or an armed robber, she represents no danger at all.”

He added: “It’s gone beyond any level of comprehension – first offence, a seven minute phone call in the public interest, as she thought it was, and 15 months in prison. I can’t believe it.”

He was also highly critical of the decision, he says, to initially place his sister on an open wing.

“That’s a bigger punishment than actually putting her in confinement, which is not going to expose you to all the crooks there that know that you’re a policewoman.

“I don’t know whether they’re just trying to scare the shit out of her at the moment but they’re doing a good job of it.”

Phillip told Press Gazette that April was later moved to the good behaviour wing in Holloway after being threatened by other prisoners.

The reporter Casburn spoke to when she called the NoW was Tim Wood – who said he was sure Casburn asked for money because that was what he had written in the email at the time.

Phillip suggested that Wood believed Casburn wanted payment because it was “standard practice at the News of the World that everyone who would call in with some whistleblowing information wanted some money”.

Wood said he was “totally compromised” by News International when the email was put in front of him at a police station which he was asked to attend as a witness.

He was advised by National Union of Journalists lawyers that he had no choice but to give evidence in court to confirm he had written the email. If he had refused to give evidence, Wood could potentially have faced a contempt of court charge and a prison sentence himself.

The case has left Phillip so disenchanted with the UK that he plans to become a German citizen.

“I live in Germany – I know how the public here work,” he said. “The public here have also got in their minds what was happening 65 years ago. What happened when the Government has so much power and so much knowledge about people that they can do what they want.”

He added: “I am going to relinquish by UK citizenship over this, 100 per cent. There is no going back on it – as soon as I can become a German citizen. I don’t want anything to do with this kind of law making. I want to be somewhere where I can trust the law.” 


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