By Peter Hoskin
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The Crown Prosecution Service has today announced that eight of the thirteen people arrested as part of the Operation Weeting investigation into phone hacking will be charged — among them Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks. The details can be found in this formal statement here, but here are the passages relating to the two people who, between them, will capture all the headlines:
All, with the exception of Glenn Mulcaire, will be charged with conspiring to intercept communications without lawful authority, from 3rd October 2000 to 9th August 2006. The communications in question are the voicemail messages of well-known people and/or those associated with them. There is a schedule containing the names of over 600 people whom the prosecution will say are the victims of this offence.
In addition, each will face a number of further charges of conspiracy unlawfully to intercept communications, as follows:
Rebekah Brooks will face two additional charges:
- the first relates to the voicemails of the late Milly Dowler
- the second to the voicemails of Andrew Gilchrist
Andrew Coulson will face four additional charges, relating to the following victims:
- Milly Dowler
- the Rt Hon David Blunkett MP
- the Rt Hon Charles Clarke, and
- Calum Best
Brooks has since claimed that she is innocent of all the charges; I haven't seen a statement from Coulson yet. They and the other six will now face trial. The usual presumption of innocence applies, of course, but this is obviously not a positive development for David Cameron, whose (former) proximity to Coulson and Brooks was already a matter of controversy. The newspapers will be full of it tomorrow, and then they may be full of tomorrow's growth figures the day after — very possibly, an ill-tasting cocktail for No.10.
14.40 update: Andy Coulson has now given a statement, transcribed by the BBC as follows:
"He told reporters outside his house he would fight the allegations and said anyone who had worked with him 'would know that I wouldn't, and more importantly, that I didn't do anything to damage the Milly Dowler investigation'.
'At the News of the World we worked on behalf of the victims of crime, particularly violent crime, and the idea that I would then sit in my office dreaming up schemes to undermine investigations is simply untrue.'"