Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive officer of News Corp.’s British unit, and 13 other people will face the first criminal trial stemming from the company’s tabloid phone-hacking scandal in September 2013.
The group, including Andy Coulson, who edited the News of the World tabloid when the scandal started in 2006, appeared in a London court today to hear the trial date and get their bail extended. Judge Adrian Fulford, who is overseeing the case, scheduled another hearing for Dec. 12 and barred the press from reporting other elements of today’s proceedings.
Brooks and Coulson, the former press chief for U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, were among those charged this year with either conspiring to intercept the voice mail of celebrities, lawmakers and crime victims, or conspiring to cover up the practice as the police probe intensified last year.
News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, a friend of Brooks, closed the News of the World in July 2011 to help quell public anger after it emerged journalists accessed messages on a murdered schoolgirl’s mobile phone nearly a decade earlier. The investigation spawned parallel probes of computer hacking and bribery and led to the arrests of more than 80 people, including the unit’s former head of security and its top lawyer.
Brooks, Coulson, former news editor Ian Edmondson and five other people were charged in July with conspiring from 2000 to 2006 to hack the phones of more than 600 people, including U.S. actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. If convicted, the charges could result in two-year prison terms.
Brooks, her husband Charlie Brooks, and her former personal assistant, Cheryl Carter, were among six people charged in May in a related case alleging they sought to obstruct the hacking probe by hiding papers and computers from investigators last year and removing seven boxes of material from the storage archive of News Corp.’s U.K. unit, News International. Though Brooks, 44, had been scheduled to enter a plea at today’s hearing, she didn’t do so.
The other alleged conspirators in the phone-hacking case are the tabloid’s former managing editor Stuart Kuttner, former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, former assistant editor Greg Miskiw, former assistant news editor James Weatherup and former private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who worked for the title.
The group accused of obstructing the probe includes Mark Hanna, the former head of security at the unit, and Brooks’s chauffeur, Paul Edwards. Former security-staff member Lee Sandell was charged separately in that case earlier this month.
Separately, the first charge in the bribery investigation was filed Sept. 24 against a London police detective, April Casburn. She is accused of offering to sell information to the News of the World in September 2010. Brooks and Coulson were also arrested in the bribery investigation last year.
Brooks, who denies the claims, quit as CEO of the unit two days before she was arrested in July 2011.