The News International phone-hacking scandal reached a significant mark in the road Tuesday: The Crown Prosecution Service announced charges against former News of the World editors and executives, including Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, relating to hacked voicemails.Brooks, the former News of the World editor and former News International chief executive, faces charges relating to the voicemails of teenage murder victim Milly Dowler. Coulson, who edited News of the World at the time of the alleged hacking, faces charges relating to Dowler and British government officials. Six other former News of the World staffers — including private investigator Glenn Mulcaire — also face charges.
“… [I]n relation to eight of these 13 suspects there is sufficient evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction in relation to one or more offenses,” CPS legal adviser Allison Levitt said in a statement. “All, with the exception of Glenn Mulcaire, will be charged with conspiring to intercept communications without lawful authority, from 3rd October 2000 to 9th August 2006. The communications in question are the voicemail messages of well-known people and/or those associated with them.”
According to Reuters, the maximum sentence for phone-hacking charges is two years in prison and a fine. In a statement, Brooks said she is “distressed and angry” over the charges. “I am not guilty of these charges. I did not authorize, nor was I aware of, phone hacking under my editorship.”
Coulson, who most recently served as UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s communications chief, faces other charges of perjury for allegedly lying under oath during a Scottish court appearance on phone-hacking. Brooks is accused of perverting the course of justice, including destroying documents. Those charged on Tuesday will likely make their first court appearances within about two weeks.
The charges come days after Rupert Murdoch resigned from the boards of a string of newspapers he owns in the UK. Of course, News Corporation plans to split its publishing and entertainment businesses into two companies. And News Corp. framed Murdoch’s decision as “nothing more than a corporate housecleaning exercise” prior to the split. Murdoch’s move and the impending charges are “certainly not unconnected,” Paul Connew, former deputy editor of News of the World, told TPM. “At the end of the day, shareholder pressure can’t be shrugged off anymore.”