British Prime Minister David Cameron’s ex-media chief and Rupert Murdoch’s former U.K. newspaper boss are to be charged with phone-hacking offences in the most significant development in a scandal that has rocked Britain’s establishment.
Prosecutors said on Tuesday Andy Coulson, who was Mr. Cameron’s communications chief from 2007 until January 2011, and Rebekah Brooks, who was courted by a succession of prime ministers including Mr. Cameron in her role as Mr. Murdoch’s U.K. newspaper chief, would be charged with offences linked to the hacking.
The alleged offences were committed when both were editor of the News of the World newspaper, the Sunday tabloid which Mr. Murdoch was forced to close last July amid public revulsion at the phone-hacking revelations.
Six other senior former News of the World journalists and staff are also to be charged.
The maximum sentence for the phone-hacking charges is two years in prison and/or a fine.
“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,” said Alison Levitt, Principal Legal Advisor to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Mr. Coulson took up the role as the Conservatives’ director of communications, helping to shape Mr. Cameron’s bid to become prime minister, just six months after he stood down as editor of the now-defunct Sunday paper following the jailing of one of his reporters for phone hacking.
Critics say Mr. Cameron appointed Mr. Coulson in order to secure the backing of the journalist’s former boss, Mr. Murdoch, and say the appointment showed a shocking lack of judgement.
The involvement of Mr. Coulson and Ms. Brooks - a close friend to Mr. Cameron - turned the long-running hacking story into a national political scandal that has laid bare the collusion between senior politicians, the police and the media.