Brooks And Coulson To Face New Charges

Martin Brunt, Crime Correspondent

Former Tory spin doctor Andy Coulson and ex-News International chief Rebekah Brooks face new criminal charges over bungs to public officials in return for stories used in the News Of The World and The Sun.

Coulson, who was editor of the NOTW at the time, and the paper's former royal correspondent Clive Goodman are charged with conspiring to pay for information about the royal family, including an internal phone directory known as the Green Book.

Brooks, who edited The Sun, and the paper's chief reporter John Kay are charged with conspiracy to pay Ministry of Defence employee Bettina Jordan Barber £100,000 for information that led to a series of stories in the newspaper.

Ms Barber faces the same charge.

Kay attended a north London police station on Tuesday morning and was charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office. He was bailed to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on November 29.

Solicitor Henri Brandman, who is representing Kay, said: "Neither my client nor I will be making any comment in respect of the matter at the present time."

Coulson pledged to fight the allegations that he is facing and said: "I am extremely disappointed by this latest CPS decision. I deny the allegations made against me and will fight the charges in court."

The charges follow Scotland Yard investigation Operation Elveden, which began in July last year and is likely to continue for many months.

So far, 52 people have been arrested, including 21 journalists from The Sun, armed forces staff and a prison official.

Before today, the only charge brought was against Metropolitan Police Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn, accused of leaking information to the NOTW, which was closed by owner Rupert Murdoch 16 months ago in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.

DCI Casburn has denied the charge.

Two arrested suspects, an ex-police officer and a former journalist, were told recently that they would not face prosecution.

The five charged today are expected to appear in court in the next few weeks. The formal charge against them is conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office, which could mean jail if convicted.

Coulson, Brooks and others have already been charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, over allegations they tried to cover up evidence of phone hacking.

In a news conference during a visit to Northern Ireland, Prime Minister David Cameron was queried on his judgment in both hiring Coulson and becoming a close friend to Brooks.

He said: "I've made it clear on many occasions about this issue and I've also said very clearly we should allow the police and prosecuting authorities to follow the evidence wherever it leads, and I think that is very, very important.

"But I think that, particularly as we get to a situation with pending court cases, that probably we should leave it at that."

Pushed further, and asked if it was embarrassing for him, Mr Cameron said: "I think, as I said, with impending court cases we should probably leave it at that."

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