Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, is to be charged with perverting the course of justice, the Crown Prosecution Service said on Tuesday.
She faces three charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice including the alleged removal of seven cases of material from the archive of News International and the alleged concealment of documents and computers from officers investigating phone hacking.
Brooks, who was arrested in March by Scotland Yard police officers investigating phone hacking, is the first person to face charges in the major criminal investigation into hacking and allegations of bribing public officials.
Her husband, Charlie Brooks, the racehorse trainer and friend of the prime minister, is also to be charged, the CPS announced.
Rebekah Brooks's former PA Cheryl Carter, News International's head of security, Mark Hanna, News International chauffeur Paul Edwards and security consultant Daryl Jorsling have also been told they will face charges, the CPS confirmed. One other person who was arrested, who has not been named, will not face charges.
In a statement minutes before the official announcement from the CPS, Mr and Mrs Brooks said: "We deplore this weak and unjust decision. After the further unprecedented posturing of the CPS we will respond later today after our return from the police station."
Brooks and her husband were told the decision on Tuesday morning when they returned to the police station to answer bail along with the five other suspects.
The charges are as follows:
• That Rebekah Brooks between 6 July and 19 July 2011 conspired with Charles Brooks, Cheryl Carter, Mark Hanna, Paul Edwards, Daryl Jorsling and persons unknown to conceal material from officers of the Metropolitan Police Service.
• That Rebekah Brooks and Cheryl Carter between 6 July and 9 July 2011 conspired together permanently to remove seven boxes of material from the archive of News International.
• That Rebekah Brooks, Charles Brooks, Mark Hanna, Paul Edwards and Daryl Jorsling conspired together and with persons unknown, between 15 July and 19 July 2011, to conceal documents, computers and other electronic equipment from officers of the Metropolitan Police Service.
All six will appear before Westminster magistrates court on a date to be determined.
Alison Levitt QC, the principal legal adviser to the Director of Public Prosecutions, announced the decision in a televised statement read out at CPS headquarters. She said: "This statement is made in the interests of transparency and accountability to explain the decisions reached in respect of allegations that Rebekah Brooks conspired with her husband, Charles Brooks, and others to pervert the course of justice."
She said prosecutors had applied the tests required and found that there was sufficient evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction and that a prosecution was required in the public interest.
The charges are the first since Operation Weeting began. Scotland Yard has budgeted for three linked inquiries to run to 2015 at a cost of more than £40m. The CPS is still studying four more files which have been passed to it by detectives investigating phone hacking, leaks and alleged bribes to the police.