24 Jul 2012

Coulson and Brooks charged – could corporate charges follow?

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has announced it intends to bring charges over phone-hacking against Andy Coulson, former No 10 communications boss, as well as Rebekah Brooks and six others.

The charge sheet released by the CPS links Andy Coulson himself with the following individuals who may have been hacked:

Milly Dowler, David Blunkett, Kimberley Quinn, Sally King (nee Anderson), Andrew King, John Anderson, Jason Carey, Charles Clarke, Hannah and/or Lucy Pawlby and Calum Best.

The CPS also states that the charges are “not limited to those whose names appear on schedule 1” and could include others from a list of 600 whom the CPS have named in a separate (unpublished) schedule.

But might things go even further and on to another level in these investigations?

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers’ evidence to the Leveson Inquiry yesterday spoke of possible “corporate” prosecutions in the future as well as individual prosecutions.

She did not make it clear whether these would come under the headings of the phone-hacking, corruption of public officials, or computer-hacking investigations or a combination of some of these .. but they could, in theory, relate to any allegations of a cover-up or corporate negligence, presumably under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

Here’s what she said in oral evidence yesterday:

“Investigating all of these investigations – and they’re numerous – we’ve worked obviously closely with the CPS, and they have advised us regarding potential offences. We’ve sought legal advice and in respect of both individual and corporate offences, and also in relation to our police powers and our options for investigating.”

I’m not sure I’d heard about the possibility of “corporate offences” and prosecutions before and it raises all sorts of questions about who might be in the frame for such a potential offence.

We still don’t have the written statement submitted by DAC Akers which she was speaking to in her oral evidence yesterday – it hasn’t been published on the Leveson Inquiry website yet (apparently that’s because there’s a discrepancy between the potential victim numbers DAC Akers referred to at the High Court and the numbers in her written statement).

But that written statement would’ve been sent some days before her evidence was given in court to core participants, including News International.

You’re bound to wonder whether it might have had an effect on the timing and nature of Rupert Murdoch’s announcement to stand down from all UK newspaper directorships.

One other point: Andy Gilchrist, former Fire Brigade Union boss,  is listed in the CPS schedule and was alleged to be a victim of The Sun not The News of The World.

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