UK

Phone hacking: Accused protest their innocence

  • 24 July 2012
  • From the section UK

Journalists from the now-defunct News of the World (NoW) have protested their innocence after it was announced eight people are facing hacking charges.

Seven ex-staff members, including former editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, will be prosecuted for conspiring to intercept voicemails.

The CPS said the charges related to 600 alleged victims between 2000 and 2006.

Mrs Brooks said a charge relating to murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's voicemail was "particularly upsetting".

This was because it was "untrue but also because I have spent my journalistic career campaigning for victims of crime", Mrs Brooks said in a statement.

The former News International chief executive - facing three charges relating to allegedly accessing the phone of Milly and former Fire Brigades Union boss Andrew Gilchrist - denied authorising or being aware of phone hacking "under my editorship".

She already also faces three charges of perverting the course of justice arising from the investigation into phone hacking - charges she has denied.

Question marks

The revelation that 13-year-old Milly's phone had been hacked by the NoW after she went missing in Surrey in 2002 led to the closure of the Sunday tabloid newspaper in July last year.

Mr Coulson, Prime Minister David Cameron's former director of communications, is facing four charges relating to messages left for Milly, former Labour home secretaries David Blunkett and Charles Clarke, and Calum Best, son of late footballer George Best.

Mr Coulson told reporters he would fight the allegations and said anyone who had worked with him "would know that I wouldn't, and more importantly, that I didn't do anything to damage the Milly Dowler investigation".

BBC political correspondent Norman Smith says many people will now be pondering how the prime minister came to appoint someone to his inner circle who had these question marks against him.

The others facing charges are former NoW managing editor Stuart Kuttner, former news editor Greg Miskiw, former assistant editor Ian Edmondson, former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, former assistant editor James Weatherup and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

The eight, who face a total of 19 charges relating to phone hacking, are due to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 16 August.

On Tuesday evening, the Met Police said six people had been formally charged, a seventh would be charged later and an eighth would be charged at a later date.

'Extremely disappointed'

A solicitor for Mr Kuttner said his client "utterly refutes" the charges.

Mr Thurlbeck said he was "most surprised and disappointed" and would "vigorously fight to clear my reputation".

And Mr Edmondson said he had "much to say on this subject and I now look forward to saying it" and that he would clear his name at trial.

All of the suspects apart from Mulcaire will be charged with conspiring to intercept communications without lawful authority between 3 October 2000, and 9 August 2006.

The charge carries a sentence of up to two years in prison or a fine.

Mulcaire, who was jailed in January 2007 after he admitted unlawfully intercepting voicemail messages received by three royal aides while he worked for the NoW, faces four unspecified charges relating to Milly Dowler, Mr Gilchrist, Delia Smith, and Charles Clarke.

He said he was "extremely disappointed by today's decision given that in 2006 I was the subject of a comprehensive police investigation on this matter".

"I intend to contest these allegations strenuously," he added.

Prosecutors will allege that a host of TV and sport stars, including actor Jude Law and footballer Wayne Rooney, were victims of the phone hacking conspiracy.

The CPS said that no further action would be taken in relation to three other suspects, former NoW reporter Ross Hall, sports reporter Raoul Simons and Terenia Taras, a former partner of Greg Miskiw.

Police have asked the CPS to defer making a decision over two remaining suspects - believed to be the paper's former deputy editor Neil Wallis and reporter Dan Evans - who have been re-bailed while officers make further inquiries.