While Rupert Murdoch and company have never stayed out of the news, since the News of the World phone hacking scandal that broke last summer they have been making the news in more ways than just the news companies and media affiliates they run.
Two of those charged are former NoW editor and Prime Minister David Cameron’s former “spin doctor,” Andy Coulson, and the former CEO of News International, a foreign affiliate of News Corporation, Rebekah Brooks.
For those of you who need a little catching up, here’s a quick timeline of the NoW scandal:
• July 2009: Evidence surfaces that NoW reporters illegally accessed messages from celebrities and politicians’ cell phones, with the knowledge of the senior staff, from 2003 to 2007 -- during Coulson’s tenure as editor
• January 2011: British police commence “Operation Weeting” to investigation growing allegation of phone hacking from NoW. Coulson resigns from his post as Cameron’s communications chief.
• July 7, 2011: NoW announces it will print its last edition on July 10th.
• July 15, 2011: After growing pressure, Rebekah Brooks, CEO of News International, resigns.
• July 18, 2011: Former NoW reporter Sean Hoare, the first to say Andy Coulson knew about the phone hacking, is found dead in his home (his death has not been ruled suspicious).
• March 13, 2012: Rebekah Brooks and five others, including her husband, are arrested.
• July 25, 2012: Brooks, Coulson, and six others are charged with “conspiring to intercept communications.”
The other six charged with conspiracy to intercept communications are: Glenn Mulcaire, the PI responsible for hacking 13-year old murder victim Milly Dowler’s phone, former NoW journalists Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup, and former NoW editors Stuart Kuttner, Greg Miskiw, and Ian Edmondson.
According to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), if convicted of a count of conspiracy to intercept communications, the penalty is at maximum a fine or a two-year prison sentence. It does say how multiple counts affect sentencing.
For Brooks, this is the second set of charges. Brooks was arrested alongside her husband and five others in March and charged with multiple counts of “conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.” For us Americans, this is equivalent of being charged with obstruction of justice, via concealing evidence from the Metropolitan Police Service. These charges have a harsher maximum of life imprisonment, but the average sentence is closer to 10 months.
Although it is not uncommon for an accused to contest the charges against them, some of the accused are fighting back not against the CPS, but against NoW. Coulson is suing NoW after it stopped paying his legal fees, while Edmondson, and Thurlbeck have both filed complaint with an employment tribunal against NoW for unfair dismissal.
For even more information about all those involved in the phone-hacking scandal, BBC has a great graphic.
At the moment, no substantive link has tied either Rupert or his son James Murdoch to knowing about the phone hacking prior to its exposure in the press. While there have been calls by MPs that both have withheld information during questioning as well as opinions questioning their competency to manage News Corp., there is currently no evidence demonstrating they were aware of phone hacking.
The scandal has also hurt the British government. Many MPs have claimed to be victims of phone hacking themselves as well some higher up officials such as former PM Gordon Brown. Because of Coulson’s employment by Cameron, the Prime Minister has had to continually make statements announcing regret in hiring Coulson in the first place.
Multiple law enforcement employees have also lost their jobs because of complaints of misconduct in their handlings of the investigation, including two Met Police Commissioner and the Communications Officer for Scotland Yard.
Over the past 8 months the Leveson Inquiry at the Royal Courts of Justice has seen 650 witnesses and had 97 days of “sittings,” but their work is just beginning in their investigation into media ethics.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and the FBI have also looked into claims of phone hacking in the U.S. from American affiliates of News Corp., but as of yet there have been no major breakthroughs.
For now, all we can do is wait to see what the outcome of the trials will be and see any repercussions.