Rebekah Brooks charged with perverting the course of justice

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By a Newsnet reporter

Rebekah Brooks, formerly head of the Murdoch empire’s operations in the UK, has been charged with three counts of perverting the course of justice in connection with the phone hacking scandal. 

Also facing charges are Mrs Brooks’ husband Charlie who is a close friend and school colleague of Prime Minister David Cameron, and four people who worked for News International. 

By a Newsnet reporter

Rebekah Brooks, formerly head of the Murdoch empire’s operations in the UK, has been charged with three counts of perverting the course of justice in connection with the phone hacking scandal. 

Also facing charges are Mrs Brooks’ husband Charlie who is a close friend and school colleague of Prime Minister David Cameron, and four people who worked for News International. 

It is alleged that the six conspired to remove computers, documents and seven boxes of material from the archives of News International in order to hide them from detectives investigating phone hacking at the News of the World.  Mrs Brooks was editor of the newspaper at the time that voicemails belonging to murdered schoolgirl Millie Dowler were allegedly intercepted.

Mrs Brooks strongly denies any knowledge of phone hacking at the paper when she was editor.

In a statement released on Tuesday morning, the Crown Prosection Service announced that Mrs Brooks, Charlie Brooks, personal assistant Cheryl Carter, chauffeur Paul Edwards, security man Daryl Jorsling, and News International head of security Mark Hanna, have been charged with conspiring to “conceal material” from police between 6 and 19 July last year.

In a second charge, Mrs Brooks and Ms Carter have been accused of conspiring to remove and conceal seven boxes of material relevant to the police inquiry into phone hacking.  The alleged offence occurred between 6 and 9 July last year.

Mrs Brooks is also facing a third charge, along with her husband, Mr Hanna, Mr Edwards and Mr Jorsling.  The five are accused of conspiring to conceal documents, computers and other electronic equipment from police officers between 15 and 19 July.

Alison Levitt QC, principal legal advisor to the Director of Public Prosecutions, said there was “sufficient evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction”.

Rebekah Brooks was editor of the News of the World from 2000 until 2003, when she left to take over editorship of the Sun.  In 2009 she became the chief executive of News International.  She resigned in July 2011 after the phone hacking allegations forced the closure of the News of the World.

A short time after resigning as chief executive of News International, Mrs Brooks was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and suspicion of involvement in the corruption of police officers and others.  She remains on bail for these alleged offences and no decision has yet been taken by the Crown Prosecution Service on charges.  Mrs Brooks was arrested a second time on March 13 this year on suspicion of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.

Conspiracy to pervert the course of justice is a serious offence which typically results in a prison sentence for those found guilty.  The maximum sentence is life in prison, although the average sentence for conviction is typically around 10 months.

All those charged today strongly deny any wrongdoing.  In a joint statement, Mrs and Mr Brooks said:  “We have this morning been informed by the Office of the Department of Public Prosecutions that we are to be charged with perverting the course of justice.

“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.”

All six who were charged on Tuesday will appear before Westminster Magistrates’ Court on a date to be determined.  The charges are the first to be brought following Scotland Yard’s multimillion-pound investigations into phone-hacking, computer hacking and corruption, which have led to 50 arrests since they began in January last year.