Within minutes of former Murdoch executive Rebekah Brooks, her husband, Charlie Brooks, and four others being charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice on Tuesday, at least 1,000 separate stories were published on “reputable websites”, as well as on blogs and Twitter, the Telegraph reported. Singer Lily Allen said “Lots of Lawyers #Brooks” on Twitter, an apparent reference to Brooks’ comment while being questioned at the Leveson inquiry last week about Prime Minister David Cameron signing his texts “LOL” to her. Brooks said that Cameron had thought the acronym meant “lots of love” until she told him that it meant “laugh out loud.”
Brooks’ own response to the announcement of what are serious charges against her, as well as that of her husband, a horse trainer and schoolboy friend of Cameron, was defiant. Brooks described herself as “baffled” about the charges made by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and said that she had been “unfairly been dragged into this”; she said that the charges against her amount to a “expensive sideshow, and a waste of public money as a result of this weak and unjust decision.” Her husband said that they and the others were being set up as “scapegoats.”
Also charged were Brooks’s personal assistant of 19 years, Cheryl Carter; News International’s head of security, Mark Hanna; NI chauffeur Paul Edwards and a security consultant, Daryl Jorsling.
The charges are the first in an investigation that began some 18 months ago in January of 2011. The revelation in July that a private investigator employed by the News of the World had hacked into the voice mail account of Milly Dowler, a murdered British school girl, before her body was found, set off a wave of “public revulsion,” says the New York Times. Brooks was the editor of NoW when Dowler’s phone was hacked; she was afterwards editor of another Murdoch tabloid, The Sun and then the CEO of News International and, in these capacities, “once among the most powerful figures in the British media.” Since the revelations about the hacking scandal, she has resigned from her CEO position and been twice arrested and bailed
Alison Levitt, QC , the director of public prosecutions legal adviser for the CPS, publicly announced the charges on television “in the interests of transparency and accountability.” Brooks and the others are charged with conspiring to “conceal material” from police and to “remove seven boxes of material from the archive of News International” between July 6 and 19. The Brookses, Hanna, Edwards and Jorsling are also all charged with seeking “to conceal documents, computers and other electronic equipment” from Scotland Yard police officers.” Five additional individuals suspected of perverting the course of justice are also being investigated.
The CPS’s decision to pursue charges against Brooks and her husband is indeed “a blow to Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Cameron, who has been depicted as maintaining a cozy friendship with Ms. Brooks both in opposition and in office as prime minister since 2010,” says the New York Times.
Life in prison is the maximum penalty for the charges which must be tried in the Crown Court before a jury, says the BBC; a jail term of several months or a few years is also possible. Brooks and the five others who are accused are to appear at City of Westminster magistrates’ court on June 13.
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