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Police charge Brooks and Coulson with bribery

A senior civil servant at the Ministry of Defence was on the payroll of The Sun for almost a decade, prosecutors claimed yesterday as they charged the former editor of Britain's best-selling newspaper, Rebekah Brooks, and its chief reporter with plotting to bribe public officials.

Bettina Jordan Barber, a strategy officer at the MoD in London with responsibility for Afghanistan, allegedly passed information for stories to Rupert Murdoch's redtop tabloid between 2004 and 2012 in return for £100,000.

The Crown Prosecution Service revealed yesterday that charges of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office were being laid against Ms Brooks, The Sun's chief reporter, John Kay, and Ms Barber, following a police inquiry into newspaper payments to public officials.

They are said to have committed the offences during an eight-year period between 2004 and 2012.

The News of the World's former editor, Andy Coulson, and the paper's royal editor Clive Goodman were charged separately with two counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office over an alleged plot to obtain contact details for the Royal Family.

All five charged will appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Thursday. All the accused deny the charges.

Scotland Yard has been carrying out three inquiries into illegal newsgathering at News International's headquarters in Wapping, east London, prompted by alleged phone hacking at the News of the World, which Mr Murdoch shut last July.

Operation Weeting into phone hacking, Tuleta into computer hacking and other breaches of privacy and Elveden into corruption of public officials. They have made 97 arrests, of journalists, police officers, civil servants, prison and tax officials and members of the Armed Forces with 20 people having now been charged.

The Leveson Inquiry report into the "culture, practice and ethics" of the British press, which was initially expected in October, is now likely to be published towards the end of next week.