- Rebekah Brooks could face charges over perverting the course of justice
- Neville Thurlbeck ‘pleased that the legal process is moving forward’
- Guardian journalist Amelia Hill reported to be among four journalists facing possibility of criminal charges
Ex-News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, former News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck and Guardian reporter Amelia Hill are believed to be among 11 suspects facing the prospect of criminal charges after the Met’s phone-hacking unit sent its first set of files to prosecutors yesterday.
Brooks is understood to be listed as one of four journalists, one police officer and six others in documents handed to the director of public prosecutions.
It has been widely reported that Guardian journalist Amelia Hill is also one of four journalists facing the possiblity of criminal charges. She was questioned last year as part of an inquiry into police leaks from the Operating Weeting investigation.
The Guardian declined has declined to comment on this, but Guardian national editor Dan Roberts told Press Gazette that it is not yet clear whether Hill’s file is among those passed by police to the CPS.
DPP Keir Starmer QC must now decide whether to go ahead with prosecutions based on police evidence handed to him within the last fortnight.
Starmer said he was facing “very difficult and sensitive decisions” as he predicted more cases were coming his way.
The DPP refused to formally identify who faced charges, saying only that not everyone in the files had been formally arrested.
But sources said details of the files included:
- Brooks and six other members of the public with relation to alleged offences of perverting the course of justice.
- A journalist, understood to be ex-News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, accused of witness intimidation and harassment.
- A journalist and a police officer accused of misconduct in a public office and Data Protection Act breaches.
- A journalist in relation to alleged offences under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.
The announcement comes just days before Brooks, her racehorse trainer husband Charlie, former PR Cheryl Carter and four other suspects were due to answer bail relating to allegations of perverting the course of justice.
‘Extremely difficult decisions’
Thurlbeck, who has also been questioned on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications, is the only Operation Weeting-related suspect to have been questioned on suspicion of witness intimidation. He is also due to answer bail next week.
Thurlbeck, who denies wrongdoing, said he had no confirmation through his lawyer that the CPS was considering his case, but said: “I am pretty sure I am the witness intimidation suspect referred to.”
He added: “I am pleased that the legal process is moving forward to what I believe will be confirmation that these allegations are completely and utterly without foundation.”
All 43 people arrested under the various operations into illegal activities among journalists remain on bail, Starmer added.
Britain’s top prosecutor said his new guidelines setting out how journalists may have broken the law would help lawyers with the “very difficult decisions”.
“The decisions we are going to make are going to be extremely difficult and extremely sensitive,” he said.
“We have got to make a decision because these cases are coming. We cannot duck that… These just happen to be the four files we have got, there may be others. We don’t know.”
Police launched Weeting, the inquiry devoted specifically to phone hacking, after receiving “significant new information” from News International on January 26 last year.
Elveden was launched months later after officers were given documents suggesting News International journalists made illegal payments to police officers.
The files handed to prosecutors are also understood to cover three other operations, the Sasha perverting the course of justice inquiry, Kilo, an inquiry into police leaks, and Tuleta, the investigation into computer-related breaches.
Under Operation Kilo – the inquiry into police leaks from Operation Weeting – Guardian reporter Amelia Hill was questioned last year under caution.
The Times is reporting that Hill’s file is understood to be one of the 11 that was handed over by police to the CPS yesterday.
She was questioned under caution last year over allegations that she received leaked information from a detective in the phone-hacking team. A 51-year-old police officer was also arrested.
A CPS spokeswoman said: “We are not prepared to discuss the identities of those involved or the alleged offences in any greater detail at this stage as a number of related investigations are ongoing.
“We are unable to give any timescale for charging decisions, except to say that these cases are being considered very carefully and thoroughly, and the decisions will be made as soon as is practicable.”
Metropolitan Police figures showed that there were 829 potential victims of phone hacking, of whom 231 were said to be uncontactable.
The scandal has already led to the closure of the News of the World after 168 years, prompted a major public inquiry, and forced the resignation of Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and his assistant John Yates.
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