Phone-hacking scandal:

Rebekah Brooks hits out over charges

 

Rebekah Brooks came out fighting today as she became one of the first suspects to be prosecuted over the phone-hacking scandal.

The former News International chief executive, her racehorse trainer husband Charlie and four others will appear in court accused of plotting to hide evidence.

Mr and Mrs Brooks branded the Crown Prosecution Service's decision as "weak and unjust" as they arrived at London police stations to be charged by detectives.

Mrs Brooks faces three counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, including that she removed boxes of material from the News International archive and tried to conceal documents, computers and other material from the multimillion-pound Scotland Yard inquiry.

Mr Brooks; Cheryl Carter, Mrs Brooks' personal assistant; Mark Hanna, head of security at News International; Paul Edwards, Mrs Brooks' chauffeur; and security consultant Daryl Jorsling face single counts of conspiring with her.

Alison Levitt QC, principal legal advisor to the Director of Public Prosecutions, said there was "sufficient evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction".

But Mr and Mrs Brooks released a joint statement expressing their anger before arriving separately at London police stations from their Oxfordshire home.

"We deplore this weak and unjust decision," they said.

"After the further unprecedented posturing of the CPS we will respond later today after our return from the police station."

Ms Carter, who is accused of conspiring with Mrs Brooks to remove seven boxes of material from the company's archive, also "vigorously denies" the allegation.

Solicitor Henri Brandman said: "Cheryl Carter understands that she is to be charged today with attempting to pervert the course of justice.

"She vigorously denies the commission of that or any offence.

"She would like to thank her family and friends for their continued support during this most unhappy period of her life."

Charges against one suspect, a security consultant, were dropped as part of the review of evidence by lawyers since detectives handed over the file on March 27.

But Miss Levitt said a prosecution "is required in the public interest in relation to each of the other six".

Announcing the decision at the CPS headquarters in London, she said: "All seven suspects have this morning been informed of my decisions."

:: The first charge against Mrs Brooks details that, between July 6 and 19 last year, she conspired with her husband, Ms Carter, Mr Hanna, Mr Edwards, Mr Jorsling and "persons unknown" to conceal material from officers.

:: Mrs Brooks and Ms Carter are also said to have "conspired together permanently" between July 6 and 9 last year to remove seven boxes of material from the NI archive.

:: Mrs Brooks, Mr Brooks, Mr Hanna, Mr Edwards and Mr Jorsling are all named on the third indictment, accused of conspiring together between July 15 and 19 of the same year to "conceal documents, computers and other electronic equipment".

Miss Levitt added: "All these matters relate to the ongoing police investigation into allegations of phone hacking and corruption of public officials in relation to the News of the World and The Sun newspapers."

All six will appear before Westminster Magistrates' Court on a date to be determined.

Mr Brooks, wearing a knitted jumper, posed for pictures as he was spotted leaving Hammersmith police station, in west London, this morning.

Mrs Brooks, wearing a black trouser suit, was seen entering Lewisham police station and was expected to appear before cameras later.

The charges are the first to be brought following Scotland Yard's multimillion-pound investigations into phone-hacking, computer hacking and corruption, which have led to 50 arrests since they began in January last year.

The latest arrests took place today and involved a 50-year-old tax official and a 43-year-old woman, detained at the same address in London by detectives investigating corrupt payments to public officials.

Today's decision to bring charges comes just days after Mrs Brooks lifted the lid on her close relationship with the Prime Minister at the Leveson Inquiry into press standards.

But David Cameron's official spokesman declined to discuss the charges, saying it would be "improper" for him to comment on an ongoing investigation.

The PM was not informed in advance of today's announcement, and they were not discussed at this morning's regular weekly Cabinet meeting in 10 Downing Street, said the spokesman.

Mrs Brooks, a Warrington-born high-flyer in Rupert Murdoch's News Corp media empire, is one of the most high-profile figures in the newspaper industry.

She became News of the World editor in 2000 aged 31, landed the top job at The Sun in 2003 and was appointed chief executive of News International in 2009 before quitting in July 2011.

Days later she was arrested over alleged phone-hacking and corruption, offences for which she remains on bail without charge.

She was arrested again in March in connection with the separate perverting the course of justice allegation, with her husband and four others.

Mr Brooks, who has been a columnist for the Daily Telegraph as well as writing a novel entitled Citizen, met his wife at a party with Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson.

Mrs Brooks made no comment to reporters as she left Lewisham police station shortly after 1pm. She was driven away in a BMW with blacked-out windows.

Mr Hanna said "I will be totally exonerated" as he confirmed he had been charged by police with one count of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

"As the CPS said in that statement, I am entitled to a fair trial," he said in a statement.

"I am also innocent of the charges against me and I have no doubt that ultimately justice will prevail and I will be totally exonerated.

"I will say nothing more on this matter until then and would ask for my privacy and that of my family to be respected."

Scotland Yard confirmed later that all six will appear together at Westminster Magistrates' Court on June 13.

Officers from Weeting charged them as they answered bail at separate stations.

In a statement, Mrs Brooks, 43, was listed as "unemployed" of Churchill, Oxfordshire,

"She was charged with three counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, contrary to the Criminal Law Act 1977," police added.

Mr Brooks, 49, a "writer" also of Churchill, Oxfordshire; Ms Carter, 48, of Mildmay Road, Chelmsford, Essex; Mr Jorsling, 39, of Aldershot, Surrey; Mr Edwards, 47, of Ashmore Road, west London, and Mr Hanna, 49, of Buckingham, Buckinghamshire, learned of the charges at Hammersmith, Basildon, Sutton, Belgravia and Bethnal Green respectively.

The statement added: "A seventh person, a 38-year-old man, who was arrested at his home in Hertfordshire on March 13 on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, contrary to the Criminal Law Act 1977, returned on bail to Barnet Police Station and was released with no further action."

PA

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