LONDON -- Rebekah Brooks, former News International executive and editor of the now defunct Murdoch-owned tabloid News of the World, appeared in court Monday to hear three charges against her relating to illegal phone hacking.
Brooks, 44, was charged earlier this year along with a private investigator and seven other executives, editors and journalists of the paper. The group was charged with conspiring to hack into the phones of 600 potential victims.
In Brooks’ case she faces two more specific charges of hacking into the phones of murdered teenager Milly Dowler who died in March 2003, and of Andy Gilchrist, a former militant leader of the Fire Brigades Union who lead a controversial firefighters’ strike in 2002. She has denied the charges.
Brooks, wearing a short-skirted dark suit, made no comment as she walked to and from Westminster Magistrates court in central London. Throughout the brief hearing she listened in silence as presiding judge Howard Riddle Brooks read out the three charges.
Her seven former colleagues who appeared in court last month, included Andy Coulson, former chief press officer to Prime Minister David Cameron, and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator.
All of them face a total of 19 specific charges of hacking into "communications without lawful authority," according to the Crown Prosecution Service in a communiqué listing the charges issued in July.
“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 offense,” read the statement by Alison Levitt, principal legal Advisor to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The names include actors Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, Jude Law and Sienna Miller, senior British politicians, leaders of the sports world as well as crime and disaster victims.
Brooks is released on bail under conditions that prevent her from communicating with her alleged co-conspirators. She will appear in a south London Crown Court on Sept. 26.
Her case is one of more than 70 arrests resulting from three police investigations following the original phone-hacking scandal last July. It was then that the high-circulation Murdoch-owned Sunday tabloid News of the World was revealed to have hacked into the mobile phone of Milly Dowler, misleading her parents into thinking she could still be alive. Brooks was the editor at the time.
In the ensuing public outrage, the paper’s proprietor Rupert Murdoch, then director of News International, the British arm of News Corp., closed down the News of the World, one of his bestselling tabloids.
-- Janet Stobart
Phone: Rebekah Brooks, former chief executive of News International, arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court in London. Credit: Sang Tan / AP Photo