x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Pressure on UK PM over Brooks phone-hacking charges

David Cameron's close friendship with the woman who headed Rupert Murdoch's newspaper empire in the UK is under renewed scrutiny after she was was charged with three counts of perverting the course of justice.

LONDON // Prime Minister David Cameron's close friendship with the woman who headed Rupert Murdoch's newspaper empire in the UK is under renewed scrutiny after she was charged over the phone-hacking scandal that has enveloped the British press.

Rebekah Brooks was charged with three counts of perverting the course of justice by Scotland Yard officers.

Last Friday, Mrs Brooks, a former editor of the now-defunct News of the World and ex-chief executive of News International - Mr Murdoch's UK newspaper arm - revealed that she used to receive frequent text messages from Mr Cameron, including one telling her to "keep your head up" after she was forced to resign at the height of the hacking scandal last summer.

The fact she has now been charged "hugely increases the pressure on the prime minister" and "means the spectre of phone hacking will hang over the government right up until the next general election, due in 2015," was the analysis in The Daily Telegraph.

Mrs Brooks, 43, was charged along with her husband, racehorse owner Charlie Brooks, her personal assistant, her chauffeur, her bodyguard and the head of News International's security staff.

Alison Levitt, from the state prosecutor's office, said the charges alleged that Mrs Brooks attempted to hide evidence from police when they embarked on a fresh inquiry into phone hacking at News International early last year.

The charges include claims that seven boxes of material were removed from the company's archives and that other documents, computers and other electronic equipment were concealed.

Reacting to the charges, Mrs Brooks and her husband issued a statement saying: "We deplore this weak and unjust decision."

Since the latest police investigation began, 50 people have been arrested but, until yesterday, none had been charged.

Mrs Brooks will appear before magistrates in central London before the case is referred to a higher court. The maximum sentence for perverting the course of justice is life imprisonment.

dsapsted@thenational.ae