Phone-hacking charges coming

Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks.

LONDON — Prime Minister David Cameron’s ex-media chief and Rupert Murdoch’s former UK newspaper boss are to be charged with phone-hacking offences in the most significant development in a scandal that has rocked Britain’s establishment.

Prosecutors said today that Andy Coulson, Cameron’s communications director for four years until 2011, and Rebekah Brooks, who oversaw Murdoch’s News International, would face charges of conspiracy to intercept communications.

The alleged offences were committed between 2000 and 2006 when both served as editor of the News of the World, the salacious Sunday tabloid which Murdoch was forced to close a year ago amid public disgust at the phone hacking revelations.

Among the alleged victims were two former home secretaries (interior ministers), former England soccer manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, Hollywood stars Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, former Beatle Paul McCartney and a minor member of the royal family.

Brooks and Coulson are also both accused of involvement in hacking the telephone of Milly Dowler, a missing schoolgirl who was later found murdered in 2002.

It was the revelation that News of the World journalists had hacked her phone that triggered a furor that engulfed Murdoch’s News International and ultimately led to the closure of the 168-year-old News of the World.

“I am not guilty of these charges,” Brooks said in a statement. “I did not authorise, nor was I aware of, phone hacking under my editorship.

“The charge concerning Milly Dowler is particularly upsetting not only as it is untrue but also because I have spent my journalistic career campaigning for victims of crime. I will vigorously defend these allegations.”

Six other senior former News of the World journalists and staff, including the former managing editor, are also to be charged – a formality that was to have been completed by police today.

The maximum sentence for the phone-hacking charges is two years in prison and/or a fine. (Reuters)

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