Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks charged with bribery conspiracies

Pair stand accused of conspiring to pay officials to get inside information for scoops

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2012, 3:05am

Two former confidants of Britain's prime minister have been charged with conspiring to pay public officials in exchange for stories and information - the latest development in the country's establishment-shaking scandal over media malfeasance.

Britain's Crown Prosecution Services said yesterday that former tabloid editors Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks were among five people being charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.

Prosecutors said Brooks - a neighbour, close friend, and political ally of Prime Minister David Cameron - conspired with journalist John Kay to funnel as much as £100,000 (HK$1.23 million) to Ministry of Defence employee Bettina Jordan Barber in return for a stream of stories that were published in Rupert Murdoch's newspaper The Sun.

The prosecutors alleged that Coulson, who until last year served as Cameron's top press aide, conspired with journalist Clive Goodman to pay officials for access to a royal phone directory known as the "Green Book".

The charges stem from the phone-hacking scandal that erupted last year at Murdoch's News of the World tabloid, which Brooks and Coulson edited before she took a job as chief executive of News International and he went to work for the government.

The scandal exploded after it was revealed that News of the World journalists routinely hacked phones and paid bribes to win scoops. Reporters violated the privacy of some 600 victims, from powerful ministers to well-known celebrities and even crime victims.

Coulson and Brooks already face charges in relation to phone hacking. In July, prosecutors charged the pair with conspiring to intercept the communications of hundreds of people between 2000 and 2006. Brooks faces separate charges of obstruction of justice relating to her alleged attempts to hide evidence from police. Coulson is charged with perjury in relation to evidence he gave at a 2010 trial in Scotland.

The pair have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. Coulson said yesterday he would fight the charges, while a lawyer for Kay declined comment. A message left with Brooks' law firm was not immediately returned.