UK Politics

Phone hacking: Man charged over Murdoch pie protest

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Media captionThe moment Rupert Murdoch was targeted by a protester

A man accused of throwing a foam pie at News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch as he appeared before MPs has been charged with a public order offence.

Jonathan May-Bowles, 26, from Windsor, was charged with behaviour causing harassment, alarm or distress.

He was bailed to appear before City of Westminster magistrates on 29 July.

Commons Speaker John Bercow has launched an inquiry into the incident during the culture select committee session examining phone hacking.

In a statement to MPs before a debate in the Commons on the phone-hacking scandal, Mr Bercow said the investigation will be entirely independent of the Houses of Parliament.

He said: "It is all the more regrettable that such an incident should happen at a time when, particularly over the last few days, the work of this House and its committees has enhanced the reputation of Parliament.

"I have immediately set in hand an expert investigation into what took place, the reasons for the security failure and the lessons to be learned."

The committee hearing was suspended for 15 minutes after the incident.

Mr Murdoch's wife Wendi Deng, dressed in a pink jacket and seated behind him during the session, leapt up to defend her husband and appeared to slap the assailant on his head. She also grabbed the plate used in the attack and hit the assailant with it.

The shaving foam hit Mr Murdoch's suit jacket and he later resumed the session in his shirt and tie.

Seconds after the incident occurred, Tory MP John Whittingdale - who chairs the Commons media committee and was overseeing proceedings - suspended the session.

People were quickly ushered out of the room, the BBC's political editor Nick Robinson said, and reporters and members of the public were not re-admitted.

At the end of the questioning, committee member Labour MP Tom Watson joked to Mr Murdoch: "Your wife has a very good left hook."

'Incensed'

Mr May-Bowles, who describes himself as an activist and comedian and goes by the name Jonnie Marbles, was suspended by the Labour Party on Tuesday night.

Just before the incident, on the Twitter account for Jonnie Marbles a message had been posted that said: "It is a far better thing that I do now than I have ever done before #splat."

Nick Robinson said Rupert Murdoch had remained calm but that his son James - who was sitting next to his father at the time - seemed incensed by the incident.

James Murdoch said he was angry that Commons security staff had failed to protect his father.

Labour MP Chris Bryant, who was present in the committee room, said the attacker tried to shove a plastic plate with shaving foam on it in Rupert Murdoch's face.

Asked about security levels in the building, he said: "I guess they weren't looking for shaving foam."

Mr Whittingdale apologised to the tycoon, saying the incident had been "wholly unacceptable".

Tory MP Louise Mensch said it showed "real guts" for the Murdochs to continue answering questions.

The public was later excluded from a subsequent hearing in which former News International boss Rebekah Brooks answered questions.

Mr Whittingdale was called to see Mr Bercow following the incident.