The Sun newspaper had a "culture" of illegal payments to officials in all areas of public life, the officer at the head of the corruption investigation told the Leveson inquiry today.
Metropolitan police deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers, who heads up the police investigation into phone hacking, Operation Weeting, and corruption, Operation Elveden, said there was evidence suggesting "payments were being made to public officials who were in all areas of public life."
Akers claimed one public official was given £80,000 over a number of years, and one journalist had received £150,000 over a number of years to pay their sources, some of whom were public officials.
Minutes before she appeared at the inquiry singer Charlotte Church and her parents settled their phone-hacking damages action against News International for £600,000.
Akers told the inquiry into press standards that disclosures from sources often led to stories based on "salacious gossip" rather than "anything I would even remotely describe as in the public interest."
She told of "regular, frequent, and sometimes significant sums of money" being paid to public officials from journalists - and that evidence indicated there were multiple payments sometimes amounting to thousands of pounds and authorised at a "senior level."
As the Met assistant comissioner gave evidence, phone hacking campaigner and Labour MP Tom Watson tweeted: "I have written to the HMRC asking for an investigation into cash payments by the Sun. Will publish letter on blog later today."
Separately the inquiry heard Rebekah Brooks was briefed on the original phone hacking inquiry into News International in 2006 by police
Tom Crone, the News of the World's head of legal, summarised Scotland Yard's briefing in an email headed "strictly private and confidential" to the paper's then-editor Andy Coulson on September 15 2006.