Tuesday 17 January 2017

PA to Rebecca Brooks prevented from leaving Britain by police

James Orr and Tom Whitehead

Published 15/02/2012 | 11:22

Rebekah Brooks (left) and her former PA Cheryl Carter. Photo: PA
Rebekah Brooks (left) and her former PA Cheryl Carter. Photo: PA
The police, who have assigned 170 officers to three separate ongoing inquiries, face accusations they are carrying out a disproportionate and heavy-handed investigation. Photo: Reuters

CHERYL Carter, the personal assistant to Rebecca Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, has been prevented from moving to a new job in Australia after having her passport confiscated, it has been reported.

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Ms Carter, who was arrested last month by officers from Scotland Yard's Operation Weeting team - set up to investigate phone hacking at The News of the World - had planned to leave the UK with her family to start a new life with News Ltd, part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

But following her arrest, police have told her to remain in the country while her husband and two children are understood to have flown to Australia without her to meet visa requirements.

Ms Carter, 47, was the 17th person to be held by the Operation Weeting team. She was arrested at her home in Billericay, Essex, just days before she and her family were due to fly abroad.

News of Weeting’s decision to confiscate Ms Carter’s passport comes as Mr Murdoch assigned his most senior lawyer to an internal committee overseeing the phone-hacking scandal.

Gerson Zweifach has joined the company’s Management & Standards Committee (MSC) which is based in London but is independent of News International (NI), the British newspaper arm of Mr Murdoch’s media empire.

Ms Carter worked directly for Ms Brooks for 19 years and is understood to have left NI shortly after the former chief executive resigned from the company in the summer.

She was PA to Ms Brooks as she climbed the ladder at NI, being appointed News of the World editor in 2000, Sun editor in 2003, and then NI chief executive in 2009.

A reported “civil war” within Wapping, where NI is based, has deepened this week after The Times raised concerns that the MSC investigation was risking journalists’ sources.

The newspaper reported that names of public officials were being passed to the police on the grounds they do not deserve protection because there is evidence they may have been paid for information.

The Times said it was not clear whether the investigation had identified the sources without considering “whether the publication of stories based on their information was in the public interest”.

The story came a day after one of The Sun’s most senior journalists said the internal inquiry was a “witch hunt” designed to protect News Corporation, Mr Murdoch’s parent company in the US.

It also emerged that the investigation by MSC also includes The Times and The Sunday Times after the main focus was on The Sun and the now defunct News of the World.

The National Union of Journalists said it had received calls from reporters on the Times titles who were concerned that their reputations could be damaged. The reporters said they felt they were being offered as a “sacrifice”.

The MSC is examining more than 300?million emails, expenses claims and payment records to identify any unlawful activity, including payments to police officers and other public officials. The Times reported that the investigation by the MSC included looking for keywords such as “bribe” and “bung”.

It said the MSC had reassured staff that the names of confidential sources would be redacted if any details were passed to the police but that would not apply if the source was a public official who may have been paid.

A source close to the MSC insisted payments to public officials were illegal and there was no public interest for bribing people.

It is another sign of the growing tensions between staff at NI and its parent company News Corporation. The MSC answers to News Corporation and has been instructed to co-operate fully with the police investigating the fallout of the hacking scandal and alleged payments to police and other informants.

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