UK jails two ex-policemen, prison officer for selling stories

LONDON (AFP) - A former policeman and a prison officer were jailed on Wednesday for selling information to Britain's biggest-circulation newspaper The Sun.

Ex-constable Alan Tierney and Richard Trunkfield, who worked at a high-security prison, were jailed for 10 months and 16 months respectively by a judge at the Old Bailey central criminal court in London.

Another unnamed ex-officer was sentenced to two years for misconduct. Tierney gave the tabloid, which is owned by Australian-born media baron Rupert Murdoch, tip-offs about the separate arrests of the mother of England footballer John Terry and Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood.

Trunkfield sold information about notorious child-killer Jon Venables, who was just 10 years old when he and a schoolmate murdered Liverpool toddler James Bulger in 1993. Both Tierney, 40, and 31-year-old Trunkfield admitted misconduct in a public office earlier this month.

Judge Adrian Fulford, who passed sentence on the pair in separate hearings, said: "This country has long prided itself on the integrity of its public officials and cynical acts of betrayal of that high standard have a profoundly corrosive effect." Trunkfield received £3,500 (S$6,580) to pass on minor information about Venables such as the food he was eating in prison, the court heard.

Venables, now 30, was released from a young offenders' institution on licence in 2001 and given a new identity. But he was jailed again in 2010 after admitting downloading and distributing indecent images of children. He remains in prison.

In 2009 Terry's mother Sue, and the Chelsea captain's mother-in-law Sue Poole, were arrested on suspicion of shoplifting while Stones guitarist Wood, 65, was arrested on suspicion of beating up his young Russian girlfriend.

Terry, Poole and Wood all accepted cautions.

Tierney and Trunkfield were arrested as part of Operation Elveden, one of three police investigations spawned by the phone-hacking scandal at Murdoch's News of the World tabloid, which erupted in 2011.

Murdoch was forced to close down the 168-year-old Sunday newspaper in the wake of revelations that its staff illegally accessed the voicemail messages of a murdered schoolgirl as well as hundreds of public figures.

Tierney is the second police officer to be jailed under Elveden after former counter-terrorism detective April Casburn was sentenced to 15 months in February for offering to sell the News of the World information about the hacking inquiry itself.

Prime Minister David Cameron's former media chief Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, former chief executive of Murdoch's British newspaper wing News International, are among those who have been charged in the police inquiries.