Ex-Murdoch confidante to learn phone-hacking fate

Reuters News
Posted: May 14, 2012 8:35 PM
Ex-Murdoch confidante to learn phone-hacking fate

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - Rebekah Brooks, a former top lieutenant in Rupert Murdoch's media empire, will learn on Tuesday whether she will be charged as part of a phone-hacking scandal at one of his British newspapers.

Police launched an investigation in January last year into allegations that journalists at the News of the World tabloid regularly hacked the voicemails of phones of people from celebrities and politicians to victims of crime.

More than 40 people, including Brooks and Prime Minister David Cameron's former media chief, have since been arrested by detectives investigating whether staff hacked into computers and made payments to public officials, including the police, to get exclusive stories.

Last month, police handed prosecutors four files of evidence against 11 suspects to see if charges should be brought against them over possible offences including perverting the course of justice and interception of communications.

Brooks, former chief executive of News International, News Corp's British newspaper arm, and an ex-editor of the News of the World, will learn tomorrow if she will be charged.

Her husband Charlie, a race horse owner and columnist, and five other non-journalists will also learn their fate. If charged, they will be the first to face criminal prosecutions over a scandal which has rocked the British establishment.

It would not only be potentially damaging to Murdoch's News Corp empire but also embarrassing for Cameron, who is close friends of Brooks and her husband, with whom he went to one of the most elite British schools.

"They are both answering (police) bail dates tomorrow. I can't say if they'll be charged or not," Brooks's spokesman told Reuters.

In addition to the allegations of perverting the course of justice, a serious offence which carries a maximum penalty of a life prison term, Rebekah Brooks has been arrested on suspicion of phone-hacking and corruption.

However, detectives have not concluded their investigations into the latter allegations.

In a statement to a public inquiry into media ethics last week, Brooks, who quit last July as the phone-hacking furor engulfed News International, said she was horrified by revelations about the News of the World.

She told the inquiry that she had close contacts with politicians even though the hacking scandal was gathering steam, and Cameron was among those who indirectly conveyed sympathy to her when she resigned.

(Editing by Maria Golovnina)