Rebekah Brooks, former chief executive of News International, could be charged with perverting the course of justice after her name was included among 11 suspects in the first files handed to prosecutors by detectives investigating phone hacking.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it had received four files from police in the past few weeks covering a range of offences allegedly committed by four journalists, a police officer and six other people. The CPS declined to name anyone in the files but said not all of them were arrested during Operation Weeting, the hacking inquiry which began in January 2011, and four other linked police inquiries.
There was speculation last night that Amelia Hill, a Guardian journalist who worked on stories exposing the hacking scandal, was among those named in the four files. She was questioned under caution last year over allegations that she received leaked information from a detective in the phone-hacking team. A 51-year-old police officer was also arrested. The Guardian declined to comment last night.
The handover of the files follows the arrests of Ms Brooks, 43, and her husband, Charlie Brooks, last month. Four other people, including News International's head of security, Mark Hanna, were also arrested. Police were believed to be investigating a possible plot to conceal the extent of voicemail interception at the News Of The World after Operation Weeting was launched. Perverting the course of justice carries a penalty of up to life in prison and a fine. News International declined to comment.
Neville Thurlbeck, a former chief reporter at the NOTW, is thought to be included in the first batch of files. He faced accusations of witness intimidation and harassment after a blog posting which revealed the address of Will Lewis, a member of News Corp's management and standards committee. Mr Thurlbeck, who denies wrongdoing, said he had no confirmation through his lawyer that the CPS was considering his case, but added: "I am pretty sure I am the witness intimidation suspect referred to." The last of the files relates to a journalist suspected of illegally intercepting communications, contrary to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, revealed the details of the four files as he published new guidelines helping prosecutors to decide whether journalists should be charged with criminal offences.
A total of 43 people are currently on bail from the five police inquiries.
Mr Starmer revealed that two investigations were underway that had not previously been made public. One named Operation Sasha, which relates to allegations concerning Mr and Mrs Brooks, and that a further investigation, Operation Kilo, which is looking into leaks from the hacking inquiry.
"We are now entering a period where we are likely to make a decision one way or another," said Mr Starmer, adding that it is likely there would be more referrals.
Mr Thurlbeck said last night: "I am pleased that the legal process is moving forward to what I believe will be confirmation that these allegations are completely and utterly without foundation."