It's a black day for News Corp. as eight of its former newspaper executives in the U.K. have been formally charged in the phone hacking scandal that has rocked the nation's elite political and media circles, and shaken confidence in the public. Ex-News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson and six others are facing 19 charges relating to phone hacking in connection with murdered 13-year-old schoolgirl Milly Dowler and other alleged victims, as the year-long scandal escalates to a new level of accountability.
Together, they're “facing charges of conspiring to intercept communications…related to 600 alleged victims between 2000 and 2006.” After reading the charges, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) legal adviser Alison Levitt QC said, "This statement is made in the interests of transparency and accountability." Coulson swiftly denied the charges and any tampering with the Dowler case. Echoing his outrage, Brooks (who was indicted in May) responded in a statement, "I am not guilty of these charges. I did not authorise, nor was I aware of, phone hacking under my editorship."
Brooks added that the Dowler charge is "particularly upsetting, not only as it is untrue but also because I have spent my journalistic career campaigning for victims of crime." According to a tweet from The Guardian's Dan Sabbagh, News Corp. and News International had "no comment" on the charges.
Coulson, British Prime Minister David Cameron's former communications chief, faces four charges of accessing phone messages of Dowler, former Labour home secretaries David Blunkett and Charles Clarke, and Calum Best, the son of the late footballer George Best.
Also facing charges, former News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner, former news editor Greg Miskiw, former assistant editor Ian Edmondson, former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, former assistant editor James Weatherup and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. The charge carries a sentence of up to two years in prison or a fine.
Levitt summarized, "All the evidence has now carefully been considered... I have concluded that in relation to eight of these 13 suspects there is sufficient evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction in relation to one or more offences... (Prosecution) is required in the public interest in relation to each of these eight suspects."
Victims of alleged hacking, in addition to Dowler, include former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, television stars Abi Titmuss and John Leslie, chef Delia Smith, actors Jude Law, Sadie Frost, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and Sienna Miller, footballer Wayne Rooney, former Beatle Paul McCartney and ex-wife Heather Mills, and politicians including former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.
Now the world is reeling and watching as the largest scandal in the modern era of communications unfolds.