It was reported yesterday afternoon that the phone hacking case is now in the hands the Crown Prosecution Service which is considering its charging decisions. Cases involving four journalists and seven others have been referred to the CPS which issued a statement confirming receipt of the following:
- One file for charging advice relating to one journalist and one police officer with relation to alleged offences of misconduct in public office and the Data Protection Act.
- One file for charging advice relating to one journalist and six other members of the public with relation to alleged offences of perverting the course of justice.
- One file for charging advice relating to one journalist with relation to alleged offences of witness intimidation and harassment.
- One file for charging advice relating to one journalist with relation to alleged offences under RIPA.
This is the first time the CPS has been asked to consider whether to prosecute those questioned in the wake of the scandal. The evidence is understood to have stemmed primarily from Operation Weeting, the Met Police inquiry dedicated to phone hacking, but also covers Operation Kilo – the inquiry into police leaks from Weeting, Operation Sacha – relating to the Rebekah Brooks arrest, and Operation Tuleta, which refers to the computer-related aspects of the investigation.
Neville Thurlbeck, former chief reporter at the News of the World, is widely rumoured to be among the journalists referred to in the CPS press release. He was quoted this morning as saying:
“I am pretty sure I am the witness intimidation suspect referred to.”
“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.”
However Thurlbeck said he had had no confirmation from his lawyer that the CPS was considering his case. He was arrested in April 2011 on suspicion of having unlawfully intercepted voicemail messages, and has made appearances at the Leveson Inquiry in addition to being referred to in the notorious “For Neville” email.
Rebekah Brooks is speculated to be among those referred to the CPS, as is Amelia Hill – a Guardian journalist who worked on stories exposing the hacking scandal that was questioned under caution last year over allegations she had received leaked information from a detective working on the phone hacking investigation.
A brief summary of key points in the prosecution timeline is as follows:
5 April 2011 – NotW chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck and former editor Ian Edmondson are arrested on suspicion of unlawfully intercepting voicemail messages.
14 April 2011 – NotW journalist James Weatherup is arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to unlawfully intercept communications.
8 July 2011 – NotW former editor Andy Coulson is arrested on suspicion of bribing police officers.
17 July 2011 – Former Chief Exec of News International Rebekah Brooks is arrested in connection with allegations of corruption and phone hacking.
22 July 2011 – The US Justice Department announces plans to subpoena News Corp executives whilst investigating claims that their publications hacked the voicemails of 9/11 victims.
2 August 2011 – Former NotW managing editor Stuart Kuttner is arrested over allegations of illegal payments to police officers and conspiracy to intercept voicemails.
10 August 2011 – Former NotW editor Greg Miskiw is arrested on suspicion of unlawful interception of communications.
7 September 2011 – Guardian journalist Amelia Hill is questioned by police over alleged leaks of information from Operation Weeting.
4 November 2011 – Sun reporter Jamie Pyatt is arrested over alleged payments to police officers.
9 November 2011 – Police seize a dossier of evidence from Neville Thurlbeck’s home, who also rejects a request to give evidence against News International.
13 March 2012 – Rebekah Brooks and six others are arrested on suspicion of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.
18 April 2012 – Scotland Yard sends four files of evidence to the CPS for review.
19 April 2012 – Three people are arrested in dawn raids on suspicion of involvement in illegal payments to public officials by journalists.
A timeline of the scandal and subsequent investigations is available here.
Laura Sandwell is a law graduate with a background in publishing