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Brooks, Coulson charged with phone hacking offences

Brooks, Coulson charged with phone hacking offences

by ABC correspondent Lisa Millar, wires
Updated July 24, 2012 22:23:00The Crown Prosecution Service said it was charging a total of eight people in relation to the scandal at Rupert Murdoch's now defunct News of the World tabloid, while it was taking no further action against five others.Prosecutors have charged UK prime minister David Cameron's former spokesman Andy Coulson and ex-News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks with phone-hacking offences.Coulson will face five charges of conspiring to intercept communications, while Brooks will face three.The alleged offences were committed when both Brooks and Coulson were News of the World editors.Six other senior former News of the World journalists and staff have also been charged.The maximum sentence for the charges is two years in prison and/or a fine."I have concluded that in relation to eight of these thirteen suspects there is sufficient evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction in relation to one or more offences," said Alison Levitt, principal legal advisor to the Director of Public Prosecutions.Shortly after the charges were announced, Brooks issued a statement saying she would vigorously defend them."I am not guilty of these charges. I did not authorise, nor was I aware of, phone hacking under my editorship," she said."I am distressed and angry that the CPS have reached this decision when they knew all the facts and were in a position to stop the case at this stage."The charge concerning Milly Dowler is particularly upsetting not only as it is untrue but also because I have spent my journalistic career campaigning for victims of crime. I will vigorously defend these allegations."The charges laid include conspiring to unlawfully intercept the voicemail messages of some 600 people, including Hollywood stars Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Jude Law as well as politicians and crime victims.Prosecutors said the other targets included England footballer Wayne Rooney and ex-Beatle Paul McCartney.VIDEO: ABC correspondent Lisa Millar discusses the phone hacking charges (ABC News)
What's important about this is that it is the first phone hacking charges that have been laid since 2006 when the royal reporter was charged with phone hacking and prosecuted and he was put up there as a rogue reporter.
Now of course we know so many years on that that he was a huge fall guy. Scotland Yard has been under a lot of pressure to push on with this investigation and do so absolutely thoroughly.
They've now handed over their documents to the crown prosecution and as we heard from Alison Levitt, the legal adviser, they have decided that it's in the public's interest to push ahead now with charging eight of these people.

The six others facing charges include Stuart Kuttner, the News of the World's former managing editor, former news editor Greg Miskiw, former head of news Ian Edmonson, former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck and reporter James Weatherup.The last person is private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed for phone-hacking for six months in 2007.Murdoch was forced to shut down his Sunday tabloid a year ago amid the phone hacking revelations.The charges against Coulson and Brooks are the most significant developments to date in the long-running scandal that has rocked Britain's entire establishment.Coulson took up the role as the Conservatives' director of communications, helping to shape Mr Cameron's bid to become prime minister, just six months after he stood down as editor of the paper following the jailing of one of his reporters for phone hacking.Critics say Mr Cameron appointed Coulson in order to secure the backing of the journalist's former boss, Mr Murdoch, and say the appointment showed a shocking lack of judgement.Brooks was editor of the tabloid from 2000 to 2003 and went on to edit The Sun, Murdoch's top-selling British tabloid, before going on to become chief executive of News International, Murdoch's British newspaper group.The involvement of Coulson and Brooks - a close friend to Mr Cameron - turned the hacking story into a national political scandal that has laid bare the collusion between senior politicians, the police and the media.

Media inquiry

The announcement comes on the same day as the Leveson inquiry into press ethics, which was set up in the wake of the News of the World scandal, holds its last scheduled hearing.It heard closing submissions from David Sherborne, a lawyer for many of the celebrity hacking victims, and Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, the newspaper that uncovered the scandal.In total the inquiry has heard eight months of evidence from around 470 witnesses, ranging from celebrities and members of the public targeted by hacking, to media barons, police chiefs and politicians.Highlights included Murdoch himself saying that he was the victim of a "cover-up" by staff at his papers, and Mr Cameron admitting he received a text message from Brooks saying they were "in this together".Senior judge Brian Leveson is due to deliver his findings by the end of 2012 and could cause a seismic shift in the way the British press is regulated.The British newspaper market is already in flux, with Mr Murdoch announcing on Saturday that he had resigned as director of The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times.
The decision comes after Mr Murdoch announced last month that News Corp will press ahead with a split of the entertainment division from its struggling publishing business, saying he is committed to both units.But it fuelled speculation that News Corp could be preparing to sell its British newspapers.
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