John KayA jury at the Old Bailey has been shown emails in which a Sun journalist describes a leaked story about the death of an army major in Afghanistan as a “belting exclusive splash”.

Prosecutor Michel Parroy QC told the court that the language used by senior reporter John Kay, in an email request for payment to the then editor Rebekah Brooks “Speaks volumes as to the interest and motivation that was at play here.” Brooks replied to the request for £3000 for the civil service source with: “brilliant scoop… of course on payments”.

Parroy was speaking at the opening of the trial of four Sun journalists, an army officer and his wife who are accused of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office, involving the alleged payments to employees for information they held in confidence as a result of their public office. Bettina Jordan-Barber, a senior ministry of defence civil servant was paid £100,000 for this and other military stories printed in the best-selling tabloid.

The prosecution barrister said that, with a few exceptions, instead of a “public interest”, the interest that was being fed by the stories was simply “prurient, morbid or banal.” Highlighting headlines such as: “Mucky Major and his Swinging Missus”, “The Lust Post Sandhurst Sex Scandal”, and “Prince Harry’s blisters”.

A more serious story, when The Sun reported that one of the four soldiers killed in a roadside explosion in Iraq was a friend of Prince William’s from Sandhurst led to “the family of the officer involved, Joanna Dyer, to endure intense media scrutiny and intrusion at a time of very obvious and considerable personal distress.” Jordan-Barber was paid £2,000 for supplying the information.

Parroy also highlighted a 2006 article in which The Sun dubbed an army instructor “vile,” and “the abusive beast of the Sandhurst parade ground.” In fact, the prosecutor told the court, that despite a complaint having been made against a full enquiry “exonerated him.”

The case, which is being heard before the same judge, Mr Justice Saunders, who presided over the phone-hacking trial is expected to last 8 weeks.

All of the defendants deny all of the charges.