In a brief pretrial hearing, Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn, the former head of Scotland Yard's National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit, was accused of breaching Britain's Official Secrets Act.
Authorities allege that in September 2010 Casburn took home secret police documents relating to an inquiry into phone hacking and contacted the News of the World tabloid, offering it information on the police probe, then known as Operation Varec.
Police at the time had new information from the New York Times concerning illegal phone tapping by journalists from the News of the World, although authorities did not reopen the phone-hacking investigations until July 2011.
Casburn, 53, is also charged with misconduct in public office following a police investigation into illegal payments to public officials by journalists in return for information. That probe, known as Operation Elveden, is one of three police inquiries into the suspected widespread use of phone and computer hacking by the media over the past decade.
Casburn, who is reported to be the first defendant facing charges related to the Elveden probe to appear in court, was released on bail and ordered to appear in the Central Criminal Court on Nov. 2. She has been suspended from duty.
Trials are just beginning after more than a year of investigations and civil inquiries into illegal communication interceptions by the news organizations, which have resulted in more than 70 arrests of high-profile figures in the media and public service.
Last week saw the pretrial appearance in court of a dozen high-profile editors and executives from Rupert Murdoch's now defunct News of the World and from News International, the paper’s publisher and the British branch of the huge News Corp. conglomerate.
The tabloid was closed down by the Murdoch family following public outrage over revelations that News of the World journalists in 2003 had hacked into the mobile phone messages of a missing teenager who was later found slain.
-- Janet Stobart
Photo: pril Casburn arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court in London on Monday. Credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth / Associated Press