A senior police officer has become the first person convicted as a result of the £40m investigations into phone hacking and corruption of public officials.
Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn, 53, was found guilty of misconduct in public office by a jury at Southwark crown court. Mr Justice Fulford warned her that she faced an immediate custodial sentence and the Metropolitan police said she had "betrayed the service and let down her colleagues".
Patrick Gibbs QC asked the judge to take into account the fact that Casburn was in the process of adopting a child and he would argue for a suspended sentence.
Casburn was found guilty of criminal misconduct for what the Crown said was offering to sell information about the phone-hacking investigation in a telephone call to the News of the World in September 2010.
The jury believed the Crown's case that she had asked for money and sought to give the newspaper at the centre of the investigation information.
Detective Chief Superintendent Gordon Briggs, who oversees Operations Weeting, Elvedon and Tuleta – the linked investigations into phone hacking and corrupting public officials, said: "It is a great disappointment that a detective chief inspector in the counter-terrorism command should have abused her position in this way.
"There's no place for corrupt officers or staff in the Metropolitan police service. We hope that the prosecution demonstrates that leaking or in this case trying to sell confidential information to journalists for personal gain will not be tolerated.
"There may be occasions when putting certain information into the public domain, so called whisteblowing, can be justified. This was not one of them. In this case DCI Casburn approached the News of the World, the very newspaper being investigated, to make money."
Casburn, who was manager of the national financial investigation unit with counter-terrorism, insisted that she had never asked for money when she telephoned the News of the World on 11 September 2010. She said she made the call because she was concerned that resources from counter-terrorism, and from her unit, were to be diverted into a new phone-hacking investigation.
She said she had attended a meeting with colleagues the day before in which it was revealed that John Yates, the then assistant commissioner, was to reopen the phone-hacking investigation. She said her colleagues were joking about the inquiry, and were palpably excited about who would get to interview Sienna Miller. She said she made the call because she was angry that counter-terrorist resources were to be used in the investigation.
"I felt very strongly that we shouldn't be doing hacking. Our function was to prevent terrorist attacks and I was particularly worried that the behaviour of my colleagues was such that they thought it was a bit of a jolly. It made me really angry."
She said she regretted making the telephone call but defended ringing a newspaper because she said she was not an influential member of the counter-terrorism team and would not be listened to if she raised concerns. She said she had been bullied for two years. "I think in some circumstances it is right to go to the press, because they do expose wrongdoing and they expose poor decisions," she said.
But the jury rejected her defence. She will be sentenced at a later date. Her barrister said he would be seeking a suspended sentence.
Casburn is of previous good character and has a flawless disciplinary record within the Met police. The mother of two adult children, she left school after O-levels. She joined the Met in 1993 and served in the child protection unit before moving onto counter-terrorism.
She is currently suspended and faces the sack. She detailed to the jury how she had suffered two years of bullying within the counter-terrorism unit, and as the only woman within her department had not been given a desk.
The Crown said she had phoned the newspaper to tell them the paper's former editor Andy Coulson, and five other people, were being investigated by the Met police.
Mark Bryant-Heron, prosecuting, said she was tipping off the paper and offering to sell information.
He said: "This was a gross breach of the trust the public had in a senior police officer."
Casburn was arrested some 15 months after she made the phone call as a result of a huge tranche of evidence – including 300m emails – handed to the police by the management and standards committee of News International.
The reporter on the News of the World who took the call, Tim Wood, wrote an email to more senior colleagues, detailing what he claimed had been said. It was the Crown's main evidence against Casburn.
It read: "PHONE TAPPING. A senior policewoman ... who claims to be working on the phone-tapping investigation wants to sell inside info on the police inquiry. She says the investigation was launched yesterday (Fri) by Yates and he is using 'counter-terrorist assets', which is highly unusual. An intelligence development team is being used and they are looking at six people. Coulson, Hoare and a woman she cannot remember the name of. The three other people used to work for the News of the World and police do not know where they are now (she did not know their names either).
"Pressure to conduct the inquiry is coming from Lord Prescott. The problem police have is that the offences committed are probably not criminal but summary offences which only have a six-month prosecution period, which has now been used up. Therefore no charges can be brought. Another factor to do with any charges is that if the messages were listened to after the owner of the phone had accessed the messages the case is civil. If the messages were listened to before they were accessed by the phone's owner then it is a telecommunications offence. The caller refused to give her name and is happy for us to call her back but start by asking her 'if she is alright to talk'."