Old Bailey jury retires to consider verdicts on Sun's John Kay, Geoffrey Webster, Duncan Larcombe and Fergus Shanahan

The jury has retired to deliberate on its verdicts in the trial of four senior journalists from The Sun newspaper accused of paying government employees for stories.

John Kay and Duncan Larcombe are in the dock at the Old Bailey alongside executive editor Fergus Shanahan, deputy editor Geoffrey Webster, former Colour Sergeant at Sandhurst John Hardy and his wife Claire.

Shanahan and Webster are accused of authorising payments sometimes in consultation with the editor Rebekah Brooks.

Hardy's wife is accused of collecting some payments for her husband, channelling money through her bank, jurors have been told.

The jury has been listening to the evidence in the case for two months.

Prosecutor Michael Parroy QC has told jurors that the case was not an attack on the freedom of the press but that no organisation was ''above the law'' and agreeing to pay public officials without ''lawful excuse'' was a crime.

Kay, Shanahan and Webster are jointly charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office between 1 January 2004 and 31 January 2012 by plotting with MoD official Bettina Jordan-Barber.

Webster also faces a second count of conspiracy to commit misconduct with a serving officer in the armed forces between 3 and 6 November 2010.

Hardy is charged with misconduct in a public office between 9 February 2006 and 16 October 2008 over the sale of stories about the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.

Claire Hardy is accused of aiding and abetting him in the offence.

Larcombe is charged with aiding, abetting, counselling and procuring John Hardy's offence.

Kay, 71, of Golders Green, north London, Larcombe, 39, of Aylesford, Kent, Webster, 55, of Goudhurst, Kent, Shanahan, 59, of Felsted, Essex, and John Hardy, 44, and Claire Hardy, 41, of Accrington, Lancashire, all deny the charges against them.

The jury retired and then was sent home for the night to resume deliberations at 10am tomorrow.

Picture: Shanahan top left, Larcombe top right, Kay bottom left, Webster bottom right

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