| 7°C Dublin

Coulson and Brooks charged as part of illegal payments probe

Close

Andy Coulson, the British prime minister's former director of communications, has been charged with illegally paying for information contained in a confidential Buckingham Palace directory.

Known as 'The Green Book', the document includes the home numbers of senior royals including Prince Edward and Princess Anne as well as the landline and mobile numbers of all royal household staff.

Mr Coulson, who used to edit the now defunct 'News of the World', has been charged alongside the paper's former royal editor, Clive Goodman, in relation to the request and authorisation of payments to a public official.

It is alleged that between August 2002 and January 2003 they conspired with others to commit misconduct in a public office in illegally paying for information about the royal family and members of the royal household.

Payments

In addition, Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, has been charged in relation to alleged illegal payments made to public officials while she was in charge at 'The Sun' newspaper.

Mrs Brooks, who also edited the 'News of the World', has been charged alongside former 'The Sun' chief reporter John Kay over alleged illegal payments to a Ministry of Defence employee, Bettina Jordan-Barber.

It is alleged Mrs Jordan- Barber, who was a senior official on the MoD's Iraq desk, was paid in the region of £100,000 (€124,000) between 2004 and 2011 for information which formed the basis of a series of news stories in 'The Sun'.

The charges follow investigations conducted as part of Scotland Yard's Operation Elveden.

Those charged are due to appear before Westminster Magistrates' Court on November 29. Mr Coulson and Mrs Brooks already face charges, alongside a number of former colleagues, in connection to claims they conspired to hack the mobile phones of more than 600 people.

Mrs Brooks has also been charged, alongside her husband Charlie, and others, with perverting the course of justice in connection with the phone-hacking investigation.

They are not expected to stand trial before September next year. In addition, Mr Coulson is facing charges of perjury in Scotland following evidence he gave during the trial of socialist politician Tommy Sheridan.

Mr Coulson said: "I am extremely disappointed by this latest CPS decision. I deny the allegations made against me and will fight the charges in court."

Operation Elveden was set up in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal following allegations that journalists at News International titles had illegally paid public officials for information.

The company set up its own internal unit – the Management Standards Committee (MSC) – to investigate the claims and has been co-operating with Scotland Yard.

A total of 52 people have been arrested so far as part of the investigation, including 27 current or former journalists, six police officers and 12 current or former public officials including prison officers and members of the armed forces.

Questioned

Seven people have also been arrested for acting as conduits for allegedly corrupt payments.

The vast majority of the journalists arrested worked for the 'The Sun', but one reporter from Mirror Group Newspapers and another from Express Group Newspapers have also been questioned by police.

Before yesterday only one person had been charged in connection with Operation Elveden.

Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn, the former head of Scotland Yard's National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit, appeared in court last month accused of contacting the 'News of the World' and offering information related to the original phone-hacking investigation.

She has been charged with misconduct in a public office and breaching the Official Secrets Act.

It is understood the CPS is still awaiting files on the remaining people who have been arrested in connection with Operation Elveden.

The Metropolitan Police has previously estimated that the investigations will cost around £40m (€50m). (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent