Andy Coulson charged with hacking Milly Dowler's phone
ANDY Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, the former News of the World editors, are among seven former staff members who have been charged in connection with the phone hacking scandal.
Prosecutors said that among those charged included Coulson, who went on to become the Downing Street head of communications and Brooks, the former News International chief executive.
Also charged were the newspaper’s former head of news Ian Edmonson, Neville Thurlbeck, its former chief reporter, Stuart Kuttner, the managing editor and former executives Greg Miskiw and James Weatherup.
Also charged were private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed in 2007 after admitting illegally intercepting messages of members of the Royal Household, who has since apologised to the victims of phone hacking.
The hacking offences relate to the "voicemail messages of well-known people and / or those associated with them", according to prosecutors. It is thought that more than 600 people were targeted.
They are charged with hacking the phones of the late schoolgirl Milly Dowler, politicians David Blunkett, Charles Clarke, Dame Tessa Jowell and Mark Oaten, and a string of celebrities including Hollywood couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Jude Law, Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills and footballer Wayne Rooney.
Also targeted were Delia Smith, the celebrity chef, Calum Best, the model son of late football legend George Best and former Fire Brigades Union general secretary Andy Gilchrist.
All, with the exception of Mulcaire, are to be charged with conspiring to intercept communications without lawful authority, from 3rd October 2000 to 9th August 2006.
The group will also face a number of further counts of conspiracy unlawfully to intercept communications: Mrs Brooks (four) Mr Coulson (four), Mr Kuttner (two), Mr Miskiw (nine), Mr Edmondson (11), Mr Thurlbeck (seven) and Mr Weatherup (seven).
Mulcaire does not face those charges for "legal reasons" but instead will face four other charges.
They all deny the charges. They will face Westminster magistrates court on a date to be set.
Mr Thurlbeck said he was “most surprised and disappointed” that he faced charges.
He added: "I would like to thank my family and friends for their undying support during the past 15 months.
"I am most surprised and disappointed in the outcome. I have always operated under the strict guidance and advice of News International's lawyers and under the instructions of the newspaper's editors which will be abundantly clear when this matter comes to court.
"I will vigorously fight to clear my reputation."
Three people will not face any charges including freelance journalist Terenia Taras, former News of the World reporter Ross Hall and former Evening Standard sports reporter Raoul Simons.
Two are pending further investigations. The Daily Telegraph understands they are former NoTW deputy editor Neil Wallis and one of the newspaper's feature writers Dan Evans.
Within an hour of the decision, Mrs Brooks issued an impassioned statement, denying the charges.
She said: "I am not guilty of these charges.
"I did not authorise, nor was I aware of, phone hacking under my editorship. I am distressed and angry that the CPS have reached this decision when they knew all the facts and were in a position to stop the case at this stage.
"The charge concerning Milly Dowler is particularly upsetting not only as it is untrue but also because I have spent my journalistic career campaigning for victims of crime. I will vigorously defend these allegations."
It follows Metropolitan Police’s Operation Weeting investigation, the long running inquiry into claims that journalists at the now defunct Sunday tabloid hacked into the voicemails of thousands of people.
Alison Levitt, QC, Principal Legal Adviser to the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer, disclosed the charges at a press conference on Tuesday morning.
"All the evidence has been carefully considered," she told reporters at the CPS's headquarters in central London. The charges are the first since Scotland Yard reopened its investigation last year.
"I have concluded that in relation to eight of these thirteen suspects there is sufficient evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction in relation to one or more offences.
"May I remind all concerned that these eight individuals now will be charged with criminal offences and that each has a right to a fair trial."
She added: "It is very important that nothing is said, or reported, which could prejudice that trial. For these reasons it would be inappropriate for me to comment further."
Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, said: “Everybody was very shocked at the revelations of the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone. I said at the time we needed to get to the bottom of what had happened.
"It is now right that justice takes its course. This is now a matter for the courts.” Downing Street has not commented.
The Metropolitan Police has said it believes there are 4,775 potential victims of phone hacking, of which 2,615 have been notified.
A total of 24 people including 15 current and former journalists have been arrested since the investigation was launched in January last year.
The majority of the arrests came after it was revealed last July that journalists on the News International title had hacked into the voicemail of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
The subsequent outrage resulted in the closure of the News of the World and the announcement of a public inquiry into the culture and practices of the press, headed by Lord Justice Leveson.
Running alongside Operation Weeting is Operation Elveden, a Met probe into allegations of corrupt payments by journalists to public officials.
So far 41 people have been arrested as part of the investigation, while an inquiry into allegations of computer hacking, Operation Tuleta, has seen seven people detained.
Until Tuesday six people including Mrs Brooks, also a former Sun editor and her husband Charlie, have been charged over the scandal.
Mrs Brooks also faces three charges of conspiring to pervert the course of justice, while her husband is charged with one count of the same offence. They are due in court in September on those charges.