Sandhurst instructor paid £4,000 for leaking picture of Prince William in bikini, trial of four Sun journalists told

A Sandhurst instructor let Princes William and Harry down and undermined morale by becoming "the eyes and ears" of a senior Sun reporter – even inside a lap-dancing bar, a court was told. (Picture: Reuters)

John Hardy was considered by the tabloid's royal editor, Duncan Larcombe, to be his "most important Sandhurst contact" during the time the brothers were officer cadets at the military academy between May 2005 and December 2006, jurors were told.

Hardy was paid nearly £24,000 for providing a "constant stream" of stories and pictures to Larcombe, prosecutor Michael Parroy QC told the Old Bailey jury.

Parroy read out emails from Larcombe to a senior colleague about authorising payments in which he described his source as "without doubt my eyes and ears at Sandhurst" and "extremely important to me".

In all, Hardy received 34 separate payments, some of them channelled via his wife Claire, the court heard.

The former Colour Sergeant was allegedly paid £4,000 for brokering a picture of William dressed as a bikini-clad Bond girl for a party, and £1,000 for a picture of one of Harry's instructors who was accused over the road death of a police officer.

Larcombe even submitted a request for £250 to buy a ticket for a "tipster" to an organised outing to a lap-dancing bar which led to a story headlined "Stripocracy of Harry Bosses".

Instructors were criticised in the story for "blasting" cadets for visiting a lap-dancing bar and then going to one themselves. Hardy was subsequently paid £500, the court heard.

Of the effect of the stories on the academy, the lawyer said: "From Prince Harry's arrival at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in May 2005 until Prince William's departure in December 2006, the media was considerably focused on trying to get stories.

"Clearly it was evident that someone – probably more than one person – was willing to let down the Princes and the Academy by selling stories. We say such conduct undermines confidence in the integrity of those involved.

"It also has a corrosive effect on morale and mutual trust between cadets, the staff, the trainers and so on.

"It is not conducive to the maintenance of good order and discipline because it creates an atmosphere of suspicion and of mistrust."

Former Coloour Sergeant Hardy is charged with misconduct in a public office between 9 February 2006 and 16 October 2008.

Claire Hardy is charged with aiding and abetting and Larcombe is charged with aiding, abetting, counselling and procuring Hardy in the offence.

They are in the dock alongside Sun chief reporter John Kay, executive editor Fergus Shanahan and deputy editor Geoffrey Webster, who are charged with conspiring with each other and Ministry of Defence official Bettina Jordan-Barber to commit misconduct in a public office between 1 January 2004 and 31 January 2012.

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

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 trial was adjourned until Monday.

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