Sun chief reporter's 'number one military contact' sentenced to 12 months in prison over £100k leaks

A senior Ministry of Defence official who pocketed £100,000 from the sale of scoops to The Sun has been jailed for 12 months, it can now be reported.

Bettina Jordan-Barber (pictured, Reuters), 42, was cultivated by Sun chief reporter John Kay as his "number one military contact", providing him with exclusive details of army disciplinary investigations, sex scandals and casualties in Afghanistan.

The mother-of-two, who is married to a serving army officer, admitted conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office between January 2004 and January 2012 and was sentenced at the Old Bailey in January this year. The details could not be reported until the end of the trial of Kay, three of his Sun colleagues and another army officer and his wife.

Mr Justice Saunders told Jordan-Barber what she did would have affected the morale of people serving in the Armed Forces, although he accepted that none of the stories she leaked would have affected national security.

The court was told how Jordan-Barber came across confidential information in her senior Andover-based job compiling briefing notes to pass on to ministers and the Ministry of Defence press office.

After meeting Kay socially and striking up a friendship, she fed him stories before they were released to the press, very often with added details including any links to princes William and Harry.

In exchange, she received between £1,000 and £5,000 per story, which was paid in cash via a Thomas Cook money transfer.

Prosecutor Michael Parroy QC said: "The overall effect was that in many cases people were quite seriously and professionally damaged as a result of the evidence being revealed to the press at a wholly inappropriate stage."

One example was a story about a sergeant major who was branded the "beast of Sandhurst" in The Sun over a bullying allegation but was later "exonerated" by an investigation, he said.

Between 2004 and 2011, Jordan-Barber, of Swindon in Wiltshire, received a total of 35 payments from The Sun totalling exactly £100,000.

She was arrested in February 2012 and charged in November of that year, pleading guilty at the first opportunity in March 2013.

Mitigating for Jordan-Barber, Patrick Gibbs QC, said the case and publicity surrounding linked trials had taken a toll on her health and resulted in a "stew reheated with a poisonous effect".

He pointed out that her guilty plea had been used by prosecutors in other cases and she had never tried to "cloak herself" in public interest arguments or waited for the prosecution to fall prey to legal or procedural difficulties.

He said: "She did not go looking for Mr Kay. She met him socially. She was not the procurer, she was the procured. She thought of him as a friend. She would not have got into these sorts of conversations with someone she would not have thought of as a friend."

Gibbs told the court that the money she received was incidental and she never negotiated or asked for more but the financial consequences of the case were "calamitous".

Sentencing, Mr Justice Saunders said: "The Ministry of Defence say that they are not only entitled to control the flow of information to the press but it is necessary for the military to do so in the interests of security and the preservation of morale within the forces.

"While it is not suggested that any of the stories she leaked affected security, it is clear from the evidence I have seen that they are very likely to have affected morale.

"If a story was going to come out which would lead to a great deal of press interest, the army wished to have time to properly prepare those affected for publicity which would be unwelcome to them and may be intrusive.

"Ironically, Mrs Jordan-Barber is and has for some considerable time suffered the effects of such intrusive publicity and she has found it extremely painful."

He went on: "Mrs Jordan-Barber appreciated the risk that she would lose her job if she was caught and she carried on doing it. I do not reduce the sentence because of that. No doubt she was happy she would never be caught because she believed that The Sun would protect the identity of those sources to whom they had agreed to give anonymity."

However, the judge did reduce the jail term from three years to 12 months because of her guilty plea, the effect on her family, and the long delay until sentencing.

He also made a confiscation order of £113,000 – the amount she received from The Sun, taking into account of inflation.

Jordan-Barber was close to tears as she was led from the dock, glancing up briefly to smile at supporters in the public gallery.

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