UK's News of World reporter cleared of harassment

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 27, 2012 7:52 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - The former chief reporter of the News of the World, the paper at the centre of the News Corp phone-hacking scandal, has been cleared of claims he intimidated a witness involved in a police probe, prosecutors said on Friday.

Neville Thurlbeck, 50, who is also under suspicion of illegally hacking into the voicemail messages of mobile phones, was arrested in March by detectives over a blog he had written.

This gave the home address of a member of the Management and Standards Committee, set up by Rupert Murdoch's British arm News International to root out wrongdoing at the company and help detectives with their inquiries.

"Having applied the full test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors, the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) has concluded that no prosecution should take place," said Alison Levitt, Principal Legal Advisor to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

"Given that the journalist in question remains on bail for further offences, we do not intend to give any further information at this point."

Thurlbeck was one of the first people to be arrested by police after they reopened their inquiries into phone-hacking in January 2011.

He is considered an important figure in the scandal because he appears to be named in a crucial piece of evidence that critics of the company have seized on as proof bosses at News International knew hacking was widespread.

Giving evidence to a public inquiry this week, Murdoch said journalists had hidden phone-hacking from himself and his son James, who quit his role as executive chairman of News International in February.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison)