A U.K. judge said former News Corp. (NWSA:US) executive Rebekah Brooks should be told whether she will face charges in probes of tabloid phone hacking and bribery before he schedules a trial in a related conspiracy case.
Prosecutors, who say Brooks, 44, and five others conspired to “pervert the course of justice” in the hacking case, should tell the group by the end of next month if charges will result from other police investigations, Judge Adrian Fulford said at a hearing today in London.
Fulford scheduled a Sept. 26 hearing for the former chief executive officer of News Corp.’s U.K. unit, News International, to enter a plea in the pending case. He gave prosecutors “strong judicial encouragement” to inform the defendants as soon as possible about any overlapping charges.
News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, a friend of Brooks, closed the News of the World in July after it emerged journalists at the tabloid accessed messages on a murdered school girl’s mobile phone. Brooks quit as CEO of the unit that published the newspaper two days before she was arrested.
The defendants, including her husband Charlie Brooks, were charged last month with seeking to obstruct the phone-hacking probe by hiding papers and computers from investigators and removing seven boxes of material from the archive of London- based News International.
Brooks, who wore a long-sleeved black dress to the hearing, declined to comment outside court. She has previously denied the allegations.
Brooks doesn’t have enough information about the case from the Crown Prosecution Service, including whether the seven boxes had allegedly been destroyed or if their contents were relevant to the hacking probe, called Operation Weeting, her lawyer Hugo Keith said at today’s hearing.
Keith also gave the judge news articles related to Brooks and the allegations about News Corp. as an example of the extent of information that could influence a jury before trial.
The conspiracy arrests were made in March. Brooks had previously been detained in the initial phone-hacking case and a related probe into bribery at News Corp.’s Sun newspaper, the best-selling daily title in Britain. Brooks edited the News of the World and the Sun before taking the CEO job at News International, which published both tabloids.
Also charged last month were Brooks’s ex-personal assistant, Cheryl Carter; the former head of security at News International, Mark Hanna; Brooks’s chauffeur, Paul Edwards; and a former security guard for the company, Daryl Jorsling. They’re accused of conspiring with Brooks.
Jorsling’s lawyer, James Sturman, told the judge prosecutors should speed up the case against his client because the former security guard had lost his professional license and may lose his home if he’s unable to work. He said he would seek to dismiss the claims.
A media-ethics inquiry triggered by the scandal has revealed Brooks’s relationship with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and other people in power. That probe is continuing.
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