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4 charged in case of alleged payments for stories about royals

By Andrew Carey and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 12:06 PM EDT, Wed April 24, 2013
The new British Newspaper 'The Sun on Sunday' on February 26, 2012 in London.
The new British Newspaper 'The Sun on Sunday' on February 26, 2012 in London.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Four are charged in connection with alleged payments for stories involving the royal family
  • One is Duncan Larcombe, royal editor at The Sun, Britain's best-selling tabloid newspaper
  • Two others worked at a military academy while Princes William and Harry were there
  • UK police have been investigating claims of corrupt payments for information by the media

London (CNN) -- Four people in the United Kingdom, including a journalist at The Sun newspaper, have been charged in a police probe into alleged payments for newspaper stories involving the royal family, British prosecutors said Wednesday.

They will appear before Westminster Magistrates Court on May 8. Their cases stem from Operation Elveden, a police probe into "allegations involving the unlawful provision of information by public officials to journalists."

One of the men charged is Duncan Larcombe, royal editor at The Sun, Britain's best-selling tabloid and part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. empire. He faces a charge of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office.

John Hardy and Claire Hardy, who worked at the Sandhurst military academy during the time Princes Harry and William were based there, also are charged with conspiracy to commit public misconduct in office. John Hardy served as a color sergeant at Sandhurst and Claire Hardy is his wife.

"It is alleged that from 10 February 2006 to 15 October 2008, 34 payments were made to either John Hardy or Claire Hardy totaling over £23,000 for stories relating mainly to the Royal Family or matters at Sandhurst," prosecutors said in a statement.

The fourth is Tracy Bell, a Defense Ministry pharmacy assistant at the Sandhurst medical center, who is charged with one count of misconduct in public office.

"It is alleged that Tracy Bell received £1,250 between 17 October 2005 and 7 July 2006 relating to five articles published in The Sun regarding matters at Sandhurst," the prosecutors said.

London's Metropolitan Police is running Operation Elveden parallel to a probe into claims that UK journalists hacked people's voice mails to get stories.

The two investigations were set up in the wake of the scandal over an allegation that in 2002, the voice mail of a missing 13-year-old girl, Milly Dowler, was hacked by an investigator working for the News of the World newspaper before she was found murdered.

The furor led to the closure of News International's Sunday tabloid, the News of the World, in 2011.

Dozens of arrests have been made in connection with the two inquiries.

An executive editor at The Sun, Fergus Shanahan, was charged last week for alleged illegal payments to a public official.

Shanahan is due at Westminster Magistrates Court on the same day as the four people charged Wednesday.

'Collective amnesia'

Separately, the UK police watchdog released the findings Wednesday of its inquiry into Surrey Police's handling of the hacking of Milly Dowler's voice mail.

Surrey Police officers appear to be "afflicted by a form of collective amnesia" in relation to the force's failure to investigate an allegation in 2002 that the News of the World had hacked the teenager's phone, said the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

No action was taken to investigate the claim despite it being known about at all levels, the IPCC said.

"We will never know what would have happened had Surrey Police carried out an investigation into the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone in 2002," said Deborah Glass, IPCC deputy chairwoman, in a statement.

"Phone hacking was a crime and this should have been acted upon, if not in 2002, then later, once the News of the World's widespread use of phone hacking became a matter of public knowledge and concern."

Surrey Police has since apologized to the Dowler family.

READ MORE: Sun executive editor faces charge over alleged corrupt payments

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