John HardyA former soldier, on trial on allegations of misconduct, called the actions of News International management “criminal” and claimed they had “sold out the lower people”.

John Hardy had earlier told the court that an associate of the paper’s royal editor (Duncan Larcombe) had given him a camera to take pictures of Princes Harry and William while they were at Sandhurst Military College, where he was an instructor. For one photograph, of Prince William dressed as a “chav”, Hardy was paid £5,000 and he also received another payment of £5,000 for a picture of William in fancy dress in a green bikini.

However in his testimony Hardy denied that he had ever possessed the William bikini picture insisting that it never existed and he had “misled” the journalist when he said he could secure a copy but had not lied. The trial judge, Mr Justice Saunders, asked the defendant “a lie is a statement that is untrue and that the person saying it knows is untrue, does that definition fit?”. “Yes” Hardy replied. He told the court that he used the £4,000 to buy 40 pairs of army boots to sell to Sandhurst cadets and The Sun had never asked for the money to be returned. Hardy said that he had been called by Duncan Larcombe around four weeks after the payment and he had said “we don’t want the photo, we don’t need the photo” and instead sent Hardy a “mock-up” to check.

Hardy had earlier told the court he was in around £20,000 of debt and “needed the money” when he saw an advertisement in The Sun asking for cadets and officers at Sandhurst to send in stories about the royal princes. It was “easy money” he told the jury. He claimed that all of the information he gave the paper was already in the public domain, “on YouTube or Google”, and when asked “Why would a newspaper pay for something they could find out at the flick of a mouse?” replied “I suppose it saved them time”. Hardy said he took the cash as “someone had just given me £500 for nothing”.

Standing trial alongside Hardy are his wife Claire, Duncan Larcombe, Sun deputy editor Geoffrey Webster, executive editor Fergus Shanahan and chief reporter John Kay. All are facing charges relating to a series of payments to Hardy and a Ministry of Defence civil servant, Bettina Jordan-Barber, for (the prosecution allege) confidential army information including details of military casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

All of the defendants deny all of the charges, the trial continues.