15 May 2012

Brooks charge a ‘witchhunt’ and ‘waste of money’

Former News of the World chief Rebekah Brooks and her husband have hit back at the decision to charge them and four others with peverting the course of justice during the phone hacking scandal.

Ms Brooks and her husband Charlie, both friends of Prime Minister David Cameron, and four other current and former News International staff are accused of conspiring to conceal information from police including documents, computers and electronic equipment. Additionally, Ms Brooks and her former personal assistant were accused of conspiring to permanently remove seven boxes of material from News International’s archive.

In a statement to journalists, Mr Brooks accused police of a “witchhunt”, saying “today is an attempt to use me and others as scapegoats, the effect of which will be to ratchet up pressure on my wife.” He went on to add that he questioned whether his wife could get a fair trial given the “huge volume of biased commentary” published about her and said that he was confident that the “lack of evidence against me would be borne out in court”.

Four other suspects

The four other suspects who face criminal charges in addition to Mr and Ms Brooks are: Cheryl Carter, Ms Brooks’ personal assistant; Mark Hanna, head of security at News International; Paul Edwards, Ms Brooks’ chauffeur employed by News International; and Daryl Jorsling, a News International security consultant. A seventh suspect was not charged, Alison Levitt, QC, principal legal advisor to the director of public prosecutions, said.

Appearing alongside her husband to speak to reporters, Mrs Brooks said: “I cannot express my anger enough that those closest to me have been dragged into this unfairly.” She described the decision to charge her as a “sideshow” and a “waste of public money”.

Mrs Brooks 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. The prosecutions are the first since the police investigation began in January 2011.

All those charged were due to answer their bail at police stations today, according to Ms Levitt, who noted there are three separate charges of perverting the course of justice in relation to events during the phone hacking investigation.

Specifically, Ms Brooks was alleged to have conspired with her husband, her assistant and others between 6 July and 19 July 2011 to conceal material from police.

Read Jon Snow on Rebekah Brooks and the lessons of Watergate

Separately, Ms Brooks and Ms Carter were accused of conspiring to permanently remove seven boxes of material from the archive of News International between 6 July and 9 July 2011.

Finally, Ms Brooks, her husband, Mr Hanna, Mr Edwards and Mr Jorsling were charged with conspiring together and with unknown persons between 15 July and 19 July 2011, to conceal documents, computers and other electronic equipment from police.

“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,” Ms Levitt said.

The six will appear before Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 13 June.