Andy Coulson, Rebekah Brooks and three others will be charged in relation to alleged payments for information, the director of public prosecutions says.
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Mr Coulson, editor of the News of the World between 2003 and 2007, and Ms Brooks, editor of the Sun between 2003 and 2009, are facing charges of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office, Alison Levitt QC, principal legal adviser to the director of public prosecutions, said today. Mr Coulson said he would fight the charges.
He said: "I am extremely disappointed by this latest CPS decision. I deny the allegations made against me and will fight the charges in court."
Ms Levitt divided the charges into two files. Under the first, Mr Coulson, who was David Cameron's communications chief between 2007 and 2011, and former News of the World correspondent Clive Goodman face allegations of requesting and authorising payments to public officials in exchange for information - including a Palace phone directory known as the 'green book'.
Under the second file, John Kay, chief reporter at The Sun between 1990 and 2011, and Ms Brooks are accused of paying Bettina Jordan-Barber, who was employed at the Ministry of Defence, for information. The charging file says that Ms Jordan-Barber received £100,000 between 2004 and 2011.
"All of these matters were considered carefully in accordance with the DPP's guidelines on the public interest in cases affecting the media," Ms Levitt said.
"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."
Mr Coulson and Mr Goodman will face two charges of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office. Ms Brooks, Mr Kay and Ms Jordan-Barber will face one charge of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.