By Lindsay Fortado and Erik Larson – May 15, 2012
Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive officer of News Corp. (NWSA)’s British publishing unit and a close friend of company Chairman Rupert Murdoch, was charged by U.K. prosecutors with trying to cover up the tabloid phone- hacking scandal.
Brooks, 43, faces three charges for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, Alison Levitt, the principal legal adviser to Britain’s Director of Public Prosecutions, said in London today. Brooks’s husband, Charlie, a racehorse trainer, was also charged.
Brooks conspired “to conceal documents, computers and other electronic equipment from officers of the Metropolitan Police Service,” and “permanently to remove seven boxes of material from the archive of News International,” in the police investigations into phone hacking and bribery of public officials by journalists at the News of the World and the Sun tabloids, prosecutors said.
The phone-hacking scandal prompted News Corp. to close the News of the World and drop its 7.8 billion-pound ($12.5 billion) bid for full control of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc. (BSY) James Murdoch resigned as BSkyB chairman in April.
Brooks’s personal assistant, Cheryl Carter; the former head of security at News International, Mark Hanna; Brooks’s chauffeur, Paul Edwards, and former News International security guard Daryl Jorsling were also charged in the cover-up, Levitt said.
Brooks and her husband “deplore this weak and unjust decision,” they said in a statement, released minutes before the Crown Prosecution Service announced it would charge them.
“After the further unprecedented posturing of the CPS, we will respond later today after our return from the police station,” they said in the statement, e-mailed by their spokesman, David Wilson.
The charges, which relate to events from July, are the first in the expanded police investigation into phone hacking, which began in January last year. The charge, which can be related to destroying evidence or deliberately misleading a court or investigation, carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, according to prosecutors.
The CPS decided “there is sufficient evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction” in regards to the defendants, Levitt said. The defendants were told to report to police stations today to face the charges.
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Here’s how today’s breaking news was announced, live on British TV: