Former News Corp. Exec Rebekah Brooks Charged in Phone-Hacking Cover-Up

First Charges in Scandal That Erupted Last Summer

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Rebekah Brooks, the former CEO of News Corp.'s British publishing unit and a close friend of company Chairman Rupert Murdoch, was charged by U.K. prosecutors with trying to cover up the tabloid phone-hacking scandal.

Rebekah Brooks and Rupert Murdoch as the scandal grew last year
Rebekah Brooks and Rupert Murdoch as the scandal grew last year

Ms. Brooks, 43, faces three charges for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, Alison Levitt, the principal legal adviser to Britain's Director of Public Prosecutions, said in London today. Ms. Brooks' husband, Charlie, a racehorse trainer, was also charged.

Ms. Brooks conspired "to conceal documents, computers and other electronic equipment from officers of the Metropolitan Police Service," and "permanently to remove seven boxes of material from the archive of News International" in the police investigations into phone hacking and bribery of public officials by journalists at the News of the World and the Sun tabloids, prosecutors said.

The scandal erupted last summer, when The Guardian reported that the News of the World hacked the mobile-phone voicemail of missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler, who was later found murdered. Outrage over that and other cases prompted News Corp. to abruptly close News of the World and drop a $12.5 billion bid for full control of British Sky Broadcasting Group. James Murdoch resigned as BSkyB chairman in April.

Ms. Brooks' personal assistant, Cheryl Carter; the former head of security at News International, Mark Hanna; Ms. Brooks' chauffeur, Paul Edwards; and former News International security guard Daryl Jorsling were also charged in the cover-up, Ms. Levitt said.

Ms. Brooks and her husband "deplore this weak and unjust decision," they said in a statement, released minutes before the Crown Prosecution Service announced the charges.

"After the further unprecedented posturing of the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service], we will respond later today after our return from the police station," said the statement, which was e-mailed by their spokesman.

The charges, which relate to events in July, are the first in the expanded police investigation into phone hacking, which began in January 2011. The charge, which can be related to destroying evidence or deliberately misleading a court or investigation, carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, according to prosecutors.

The CPS decided "there is sufficient evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction" in regard to the defendants, Ms. Levitt said. The defendants were told to report to police stations today to face the charges.

Prosecutors received evidence from the Metropolitan Police on March 27 in relation to seven suspects. The seventh, who provided security for Ms. Brooks on behalf of News International, wasn't charged. The six who were charged will have their first court appearance at Westminster Magistrates Court in London, at a date that is yet to be determined, prosecutors said.

Police arrested Ms. Brooks and her husband, as well as Mr. Hanna, on March 13.

The charges against Ms. Brooks come four days after she testified at an inquiry into media ethics led by Judge Brian Leveson triggered by the phone-hacking scandal. News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch testified last month.

The Leveson inquiry is in addition to parliamentary probes and police investigations that have expanded to include bribery of public officials and computer hacking and have resulted in about 45 arrests.

-- Bloomberg News --

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