Phone hacking: journalist files sent to prosecutors

  • 18 April 2012
  • From the section UK

Four files relating to alleged offences committed by journalists have been sent to the Crown Prosecution Service to consider if charges can be brought.

The cases concern allegations of misconduct in a public office, perverting the course of justice, witness intimidation and harassment.

Interception of communications, thought to be phone hacking, is also included.

Four journalists, one police officer and six other people are allegedly involved.

Dozens on bail

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, did not give a timescale for making a decision on charges, saying: "We are now entering a period where we are likely to make a decision one way or another."

There are 43 people currently on bail in connection with police inquiries into alleged hacking. Some of the suspects referred to in the files have not been questioned by police yet, the DPP said.

The charge of misconduct in a public office relates to the police officer and one journalist.

One journalist and six other people are linked to the charge of perverting the course of justice, while one journalist is linked to the witness harassment charge, and one journalist is accused of intercepting communication.

Mr Starmer said: "These just happen to be the four files we have got, there may be others. We don't know."

The four files relate to four of the five police operations currently under way: Operation Weeting which looking at alleged phone hacking; Operation Elveden looking at alleged illegal payments made to police; Operation Sacha into allegations concerning former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks, her husband and a laptop; and Operation Kilo looking at leaks from within the Operation Weeting police team.

The fifth investigation is known as Operation Tuleta and is looking into a number of allegations regarding breach of privacy which fall outside the remit of Operation Weeting, including computer hacking.

'Very difficult decisions'

The news of cases being passed to the CPS comes on the same day that Mr Starmer published interim guidelines on the approach prosecutors should take when assessing the public interest in cases affecting the media.

Mr Starmer said the new rules would help lawyers with the "very difficult decisions".

"The decisions we are going to make are going to be extremely difficult and extremely sensitive," he said.

"We have got to make a decision because these cases are coming. We cannot duck that."

The guidelines are likely to be relevant when prosecutors are considering whether to charge journalists - or those who interact with journalists - with criminal offences that may have been committed in the course of their work as journalists, he said.

"Freedom of expression and the public right to know about important matters of public debate are an essential foundation of our society but there are limits for those who cross the line into criminality.

"Journalists, and those who work with them, are not afforded special status under the criminal law, but the public interest served by their actions is a relevant factor in deciding whether they should be prosecuted in an individual case," Mr Starmer said.

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