Sun journalist, UK military staff charged over royal stories

British prosecutors on Wednesday charged The Sun tabloid's royal editor and two former staff at the military academy where Princes William and Harry trained, over the sale of stories for thousands of pounds.

Journalist Duncan Larcombe, 37, was charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office, along with 43-year-old John Hardy, a former instructor at the elite Sandhurst military training academy, and Hardy's wife Claire, 39.

The Hardys are accused of accepting more than £23,000 ($35,000, 27,000 euros) from The Sun, Britain's biggest-selling newspaper which is owned by Australian-born US tycoon Rupert Murdoch, for stories about Sandhurst and the royal family, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.

Tracey Bell, a 34-year-old former assistant at Sandhurst's medical centre, was also charged with misconduct in a public office over allegations that The Sun paid her £1,250 for stories between 2005 and 2006.

"It is alleged that from 10 February 2006 to 15 October 2008, 34 payments were made to either John Hardy or Claire Hardy totalling over £23,000 for stories relating mainly to the royal family or matters at Sandhurst," the CPS said.

"In addition we have concluded that Tracey Bell should be charged with one count of misconduct in public office."

Police later confirmed that all four had been charged after returning on bail to various police stations on Wednesday following their earlier arrests.

A fifth person, a 32-year-old man, will face no further action, police said.

Prince William, a Royal Air Force search and rescue helicopter pilot, trained at Sandhurst in southern England from January to December 2006, while his younger brother Harry was there from May 2005 until April 2006.

Harry, an Apache helicopter gunner, has served twice in Afghanistan.

All four of those charged will appear at London's Westminster Magistrates' Court on May 8, the CPS said.

They have been charged as part of Operation Elveden, a Scotland Yard investigation set up in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal at The Sun's sister newspaper, the News of the World.

Murdoch was forced to shut down the News of the World after it illegally accessed the voice-mail messages of a murdered schoolgirl, as well as hundreds of celebrities and public figures.

Prime Minister David Cameron's ex-media chief Andy Coulson, a former News of the World editor, is among those who have been charged in connection with the scandal, as is Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of Murdoch's British newspaper wing News International.

Earlier Wednesday, a former police officer became the 62nd person arrested under Operation Elveden.

The charges also came as Britain's police watchdog accused officers of failing to investigate allegations that the News of the World hacked the phone of murdered 13-year-old Milly Dowler when the claims first emerged.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission said Surrey Police in southeast England had known of the allegation at the time of Dowler's murder in 2002, and had done nothing about it.

But the watchdog said it was unable to find out why nothing was done, because former senior officers in Surrey appeared to be suffering from "collective amnesia".