Former News International chief executive, her husband and four others charged in phone-hacking inquiry
Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, has been charged over allegations that she tried to conceal evidence from detectives investigating phone hacking and alleged bribes to public officials.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced that Brooks, one of the most high-profile figures in the newspaper industry, would be charged with three counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in July last year at the height of the police investigation.
Scotland Yard later confirmed she had been charged along with her husband, Charlie Brooks, and four others.
Brooks is accused of conspiring with others, including her husband, a racehorse trainer and friend of the prime minister, and her personal assistant, to conceal material from detectives.
Brooks and her husband were informed of the charging decision – the first since the start of the Operation Weeting phone-hacking investigation last January – when they answered their bail at a police station in London on Tuesday morning.
They are among six individuals from News International, along with the company’s head of security, Mark Hanna, to be charged over allegations that they removed material, documents and computers to hide them from officers investigating phone hacking. The charge carries a maximum penalty of life, although the average term served in prison is 10 months.
In a statement, Brooks and her husband – who are both close to David Cameron – condemned the decision made by senior lawyers and overseen by Keir Starmer QC, the director of public prosecutions.
“We deplore this weak and unjust decision after the further unprecedented posturing of the CPS,” the statement said. “We will respond later today after our return from the police station.”
The CPS chose to announce the charges against Brooks, her husband and four others in a televised statement in the interests of “transparency and accountability”.
Brooks is accused in one charge of conspiring with her PA, Cheryl Carter, to “remove seven boxes of material from the archives of News International”.
In a separate charge she is accused of conspiring with her husband, Hanna, her chauffeur and a security consultant to conceal “documents and computers” from the investigating detectives. All the offences are alleged to have taken place in July last year.
Alison Levitt QC, Starmer’s principal legal adviser, said the decision to charge six of the seven individuals arrested over the allegations came after prosecutors applied the two-stage test required of them when making charging decisions.
“I have concluded that in relation to all suspects except the seventh there is sufficient evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction,” she said.
“I then considered the second stage of the test and I have concluded that a prosecution is required in the public interest in relation to each of the other six.”
Levitt said the televised statement had been 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 detectives handed prosecutors a file of evidence on 27 March this year in relation to seven suspects: Brooks, her husband, Hanna, Carter, Paul Edwards who was Brooks’s chauffeur employed by News International, and Daryl Jorsling, who provided security for Brooks, supplied by News international.
The seventh suspect – who has not been named – also provided security. But Levitt said no charges were to be laid against him.
Brooks is charged on count one that between 6 July and 19 July 2011 she conspired with Charles Brooks, Carter, Hanna, Edwards, Jorsling and persons unknown to conceal material from officers of the Metropolitan Police Service.
On count two she is charged with Carter between 6 July and 9 July 2011 of conspiring together to permanently remove seven boxes of material from the archive of News International. In the third count Brooks is charged with her husband, Hanna, Edwards and Jorsling and persons unknown of conspiring together between 15 July and 19 July 2011 to conceal documents, computers and other electronic equipment from officers of the Metropolitan Police Service.
In a statement issued through her solicitor, Carter said she “vigorously denies” the charges.
Hanna said: “I have no doubt that ultimately justice will prevail and I will be totally exonerated.”
All the allegations relate to the police investigation into allegations of phone hacking and corruption of public officials in relation to the News of the World and the Sun newspapers, Levitt said.
Brooks and her husband had travelled to London from their home in Oxfordshire to answer bail following their arrest in March on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. They were informed of the decision at that meeting. They have been bailed to appear at Westminster magistrates court along with the four others on June 13.
The six people are the first to be charged as a result of the new Scotland Yard investigation into phone hacking. The inquiry is one of three linked investigations for which the Yard has budgeted £40m until 2015.
Carter was the first to be arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice in January. Two months later the other suspects were arrested.
The news of the charges came as Scotland Yard announced on Tuesday that two people had been arrested in connection with alleged bribery of public officials.
A 50-year-old man who works for HM Revenue and Customs and a 43-year-old woman from the same address were arrested by officers from Operation Eleveden, the Met police operation investigating alleged bribery of public officials. The man was arrested on suspicion of misconduct in a public office and the woman on suspicion of aiding and abetting the offence.
Brooks was a high-flyer at News International. At 31, she became News of the World editor and three years later, in 2003, was given the editorship of the Sun. She was appointed chief executive of News International in 2009 before quitting in July 2011.
Days later she was arrested over alleged phone hacking and corruption offences, for which she remains on bail without charge. She was arrested again in March in connection with the separate allegation of perverting the course of justice along with her husband and others.
Charlie Brooks has been a columnist for the Daily Telegraph as well as writing a novel entitled Citizen.
Prosecutors are still considering four files of evidence – relating to at least 20 suspects – and involving allegations of phone hacking, alleged bribery of public officials and misconduct in a public office from the linked inquiries.
Starmer said he was facing “very difficult and sensitive decisions” as he predicted last month that more cases were coming his way.
Police launched Operation Weeting, the inquiry devoted specifically to phone hacking, after receiving “significant new information” from News International on 26 January last year.
Operation Elveden was launched months later following allegations that News International journalists made illegal payments to police officers.
As the inquiry escalated officers launched three related operations: the Sasha inquiry into allegations of perverting the course of justice; Kilo, an inquiry into police leaks; and Tuleta, the investigation into computer-related offences.
News International did not immediately make a statement, but confirmed that it still employed Hanna and Edwards.
A spokesman for Rebekah Brooks said she and her husband were still with police, and that the couple were likely to release a further statement on Tuesday afternoon.