Eight people were charged with phone hacking-related crimes Tuesday as the government-launched Leveson Inquiry reached its dramatic conclusion.
Seven defendants were editorial staff of Rupert Murdoch’s now defunct News of the World (NoW).
The last was private investigator Glenn Mulcaire who on July 4, was ordered by the Supreme Court to reveal who hired him to hack the phone of Nicola Phillips, former assistant to well-known British publicist Max Clifford. Mulcaire lost his appeal for privilege against self-incrimination and was forced to hand over the names of those involved.
The highest profiles of those charged are Rebekah Brooks, NoW chief executive, and Andrew Coulson, fellow ex-editor and former aide to Prime Minister David Cameron.
Also charged by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) are Stuart Kuttner, Greg Miskiw, Ian Edmondson, Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup.
This isn’t the first time Mulcaire—who was convicted in 2007 for phone hacking related to the royal family—has been used as a source of information. British authorities seized his notebooks when he was arrested in 2006. Those notebooks gave police a wealth of information with pages of PIN numbers, passwords, and plenty of incriminating evidence, according to the Leveson Inquiry.
Tuesday’s charges relate to over 600 victims whose privacy was invaded between 2000 and 2006. Some of the charges include hacking into the voicemail of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old murder victim, and into the phones of major celebrities and politicians, including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Jude Law and Sir Paul McCartney. A total of 19 charges were specified.
Brooks and Coulson have spoken out in public statements denying the accusations.
Charges against three others—Terenia Taras, Raoul Simons, and Ross Hall—two of whom had contributed to News of the World, were dismissed due to insufficient evidence.
Prime Minister David Cameron launched the Leveson Inquiry last July to investigate ethics of the press, following revelations of the hackings.
Lord Justice Leveson closed the inquiry Tuesday after the eight were charged. For 102 days, the inquiry held public hearings, roughly three times per week, and compiled 6,000 pages of evidence.
David Sherborne who represented many of the phone-hacking victims, told Justice Leveson that at issue was more than some instances of illegal phone hacking—at issue is the buildup of public opinion that the press is out of control, according to a transcript.
“The public are tired of the press, which claims the privilege of freedom of speech to write largely the sort of stories which have zero public interest. They’re tired, for example, of listening to News Group apologize for phone hacking, not because they’re sorry for what they’ve done, but just because they’re sorry that they got caught,” he added.
“The press is on trial here, and not simply in this room but also out there in the court of public opinion,” he said, adding that unless someone takes a “very firm grip on the tabloid press, we will be back in the same position as soon as the spotlight in this room is turned off and the ink has dried on [Leveson’s] report.”
Jonathan Caplan, the counsel for Associated Newspapers, argued at the hearing that the British press had been pressed to employ such illegal methods to obtain news to compete with the likes of Facebook, Google and Twitter.
“My clients have nothing but sympathy for those whose lives have been hurt by errors made by the press, but it must be recognized at the same time that news is reported at great speed against hard deadlines and thousands of stories are published every week without complaint. It is sadly inevitable that human errors will be made, and no regulatory system will ever change that.”
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