Eight face charges of phone-hacking linked to tabloid

Wed, Jul 25, 2012, 01:00

BRITISH PROSECUTORS are to charge eight people, including former editors Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, in connection with the phone-hacking scandal at the now defunct News of the World newspaper.

Mr Coulson, a former aide to prime minister David Cameron, and Ms Brooks, News International’s former chief executive, will face charges in connection with the hacking of the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announcement means some of Rupert Murdoch’s top former aides have been charged with criminal offences.

Among those charged were former managing editor Stuart Kuttner, former news editors Ian Edmondson and Greg Miskiw, former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, former assistant news editor James Weatherup and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

Alison Levitt QC, principal legal adviser to the director of public prosecutions, announced the decision yesterday. She said the charges related to allegations of phone-hacking from October 2000 to August 2006. The CPS will bring 19 charges in all and say 600 people were targeted, ranging from victims of crime to politicians and celebrities.

Ms Levitt said: “All, with the exception of Glenn Mulcaire, will be charged with conspiring to intercept communications without lawful authority, from October 3rd 2000 to August 9th, 2006. The communications in question are the voicemail messages of well-known people and/or those associated with them. There is a schedule containing the names of over 600 people whom the prosecution will say are the victims of this offence.”

The CPS said victims included former home secretaries David Blunkett and Charles Clarke, Tessa Jowell MP and her husband David Mills, and Prof John Tulloch, a victim of the July 7th, 2005, terrorist attacks on London.

The allegations that Milly Dowler’s phone was hacked led to the News of the World’s closure. Charged in relation to this were Mr Coulson, Ms Brooks, Mr Kuttner, Mr Miskiw, Mr Thurlbeck and Mr Mulcaire.

In the years after the 2007 conviction of one of its journalists for hacking the royal household, News International insisted the practice was limited to one rogue reporter.

The charging decisions follow a Scotland Yard investigation that began last year after police had repeatedly said for more than a year that there was no need to reopen the investigation.

In July 2009, the Guardian began running a series of articles that claimed phone-hacking was more widespread than previously admitted.

On Monday, police said they believed there were 4,775 potential victims of phone-hacking, of whom 2,615 had been notified. The London Metropolitan police (known as the Met) deputy assistant commissioner, Sue Akers, told the Leveson inquiry her force had notified more than 702 people who were “likely” to have been victims.

The CPS has received files from the Met’s Operation Weeting team covering 13 individuals, including 11 journalists from the News of the World and Mr Mulcaire.

To bring charges, the CPS must be satisfied prosecution is in the public interest. The previous phone-hacking investigation has been criticised for failing to be thorough enough.

The Met says it launched Operation Weeting after receiving “significant new information” from News International on January 26th last year. Twenty-four people including 15 current and former journalists have been arrested as part of the operation.

Police have also detained 41 people under Operation Elveden, an investigation into alleged corrupt payments made to police officers and other public officials.

Seven people have been arrested as part of Operation Tuleta, investigating the scale of computer hacking and other breaches of privacy.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) is a complex piece of legislation and there has been doubt in legal circles about when exactly an offence of phone-hacking may be said to have been committed.

Prosecutors looking at the evidence gathered by the new police phone-hacking investigation have been working on the basis of a “broad interpretation” of Ripa, which covers phone-hacking, the director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer told the Guardian earlier this month.

This would mean it was not absolutely necessary – for the purposes of bringing a criminal prosecution – for a voicemail message to have been unheard by its intended recipient before it was allegedly hacked into. – (Guardian service)