By Vikram Dodd
Prosecutors have announced new criminal charges against the former News International editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, this time over alleged illegal payments to public officials.
The Crown Prosecution Service announced on Tuesday that four former News International employees, and a defence official alleged to have been paid £100,000 for information, should stand trial.
The announcement came as a result of Operation Elveden, in which the Metropolitan police are investigating claims of unlawful payments by News International staff to police officers and other public officials.
Coulson, former editor of the now defunct News of the World, and the former royal editor Clive Goodman, are both charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office. These relate to payments allegedly made to gain confidential information about the royal family.
In a statement, Alison Levitt, QC, principal legal adviser to the director of public prosecutions (DPP), said: “We have concluded, following a careful review of the evidence, that Clive Goodman and Andy Coulson should be charged with two conspiracies. The allegations relate to the request and authorisation of payments to public officials in exchange for information, including a palace phone directory known as the “green book” containing contact details for the royal family and members of the household.”
Also charged are Brooks, editor of the Sun between 14 January 2003 and 1 September 2009, the Sun’s former chief reporter John Kay, and the Ministry of Defence official Bettina Jordan Barber, who is alleged to have been paid £100,000 over a seven-year period.
The CPS said all three “conspired together, and with others, to commit misconduct in public office” between 1 January 2004 and 31 January 2012.
“We have concluded, following a careful review of the evidence, that Bettina Jordan Barber, John Kay and Rebekah Brooks should be charged with a conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office between 1 January 2004 and 31 January 2012. This conspiracy relates to information allegedly provided by Bettina Jordan Barber for payment which formed the basis of a series of news stories published by the Sun. It is alleged that approximately £100,000 was paid to Bettina Jordan Barber between 2004 and 2011.”
The Metropolitan police have arrested 52 people as part of Operation Elveden, including 21 journalists at the Sun. Among the public officials arrested are a member of the armed forces, a prison official, and police officers.
In its statement, the CPS said: “All of these matters were considered carefully in accordance with the DPP’s guidelines on the public interest in cases affecting the media. This guidance asks prosecutors to consider whether the public interest served by the conduct in question outweighs the overall criminality before bringing criminal proceedings.
“Following charge, these individuals will appear before Westminster magistrates court on a date to be determined.”
The Met has said the investigations triggered by the phone-hacking scandal may last another three years and cost £40m.
The force has 185 officers and civilian staff working on all the related investigations – 96 on Operation Weeting, looking at phone hacking, 70 on Elveden and 19 on Tuleta, which covers computer hacking.
In July the CPS announced phone-hacking charges against Coulson and Brooks, who both edited the News of the World. They have denied the charges.
Coulson also faces trial in Scotland over claims he committed perjury in a libel trial, which he denies. He is a former top aide to the prime minister, David Cameron.
Brooks and Coulson were among eight people charged with 19 counts of conspiracy over the phone-hacking scandal, with prosecutors alleging that the News of the World targeted, among others, Labour cabinet ministers and celebrities – including at least one person associated with the Hollywood couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Brooks and her husband, Charlie, are also facing charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by allegedly concealing evidence from the police investigating her time as a top News International executive. Both deny those charges also.
The other News of the World staff facing phone-hacking-related charges are Stuart Kuttner, former managing editor, Ian Edmondson, former assistant editor (news), Greg Miskiw, a former news editor, Neville Thurlbeck, former chief reporter, James Weatherup, former assistant news editor, and a the private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire. Kuttner faces three charges, while Miskiw faces 10 charges. Edmondson faces 12 charges, Thurlbeck eight, and Weatherup eight.