Phone Hacking Scandal: U.K. Prosecutors to Decide on Charges This Month
LONDON - U.K. prosecutors plan to decide by the end of July whether to bring phone hacking charges against former journalists of shuttered News Corp. tabloid News of the World, who would then have to stand trial, the Guardian reported.
Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, told the paper that he was "reasonably confident" that his Crown Prosecution Service would reach a conclusion on what actions to take by the end of the month in 13 cases of alleged phone hacking conducted by reporters and editors.
The CPS has not named the journalists it has examined, but former editors of the News of the World who were previously arrested and remain on police bail include Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, the Guardian highlighted.
Brooks used to run News Corp.'s U.K. newspaper unit News International as CEO and was a long-time confidante of conglomerate chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch. Coulson was later hired by Prime Minister David Cameron as a communications advisor.
If charges are brought, they would result in the first phone hacking trial since the 2007 prosecution of former News of the World staffer Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire who were tried for intercepting voicemail messages of members of the royal household. They were sentenced to four months and six months in jail, respectively.
One issue has been that the CPS and the London Metropolitan Police, also known as Scotland Yard, have disagreed whether a criminal offense has been committed if a voicemail had already been heard by the person it was left for. Observers have said that the law was unclear in this area.
Starmer told the Guardian that "in so far as it was necessary", alternative hacking charges could be brought. For example, a charge of conspiring to intercept messages or computer misuse would not necessarily require hacking to have taken place if a message was heard by its intended recipient, the paper said.