Angry Brooks hits out over charges

Rebekah Brooks angrily attacked police and prosecutors for dragging her friends and family into the phone hacking scandal tonight as she said she was “baffled” to face charges.

The former News International chief executive said allegations that she, her husband and four others plotted to hide evidence were “an expensive sideshow and a waste of public money”.

In a defiant statement delivered outside her solicitor’s London office, she added: “Although I understand the need for a thorough investigation, I am baffled by the decision to charge me. However I cannot express my anger enough that those close to me have unfairly been dragged into this.”

The 43-year-old and her racehorse trainer husband Charlie stood side-by-side to brand the charging decisions as a ``witch hunt'' against her.

Mrs Brooks said: “Whilst I have always respected the criminal justice system, I have to question today whether this decision was made on a proper impartial assessment of the evidence.”

Mr Brooks said: “I feel today is an attempt to use me and others as scapegoats, the effect of which is to ratchet up the pressure on my wife, who I believe is the subject of a witch hunt.

“There are 172 police officers, about the equivalent of eight murder squads, working on this; so it doesn’t surprise me that the pressure is on to prosecute, no matter how weak the cases will be.

“I have no doubt that the lack of evidence against me will be borne out in court but I have grave doubts that my wife can ever get a fair trial, given the huge volume of biased commentary which she has been subjected to.

“We will fight this in court.”

The couple will appear in court on June 13 alongside her former PA, Cheryl Carter and chauffeur Paul Edwards charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Mark Hanna, head of security at News International and security consultant Daryl Jorsling also face single counts of conspiring with her.

Mrs Brooks was charged with three counts, including that she removed boxes of material from the News International archive and tried to conceal documents, computers and other material from the multimillion-pound Scotland Yard inquiry.

Mrs Brooks, listed on a police indictment as ``unemployed'' of Churchill, Oxfordshire, was charged in an hour long meeting with Operation Weeting detectives.

Speaking later outside the Kingsley Napley law firm office, she added: “I was the editor of the News of the World, I was the editor of The Sun and chief executive.

“Even News International’s harshest critics can’t wish to see today, people with no involvement of the central issues being treated like this and being involved like this.”

Alison Levitt QC, principal legal advisor to the Director of Public Prosecutions, announced hours earlier that there was “sufficient evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction”.

Charges against one suspect, a 38-year-old security consultant, were dropped as part of the review of evidence by lawyers since detectives handed over the file on March 27.

But Miss Levitt said a prosecution “is required in the public interest in relation to each of the other six”.

:: The first charge against Mrs Brooks details that, between July 6 and 19 last year, she conspired with her husband, Ms Carter, Mr Hanna, Mr Edwards, Mr Jorsling and “persons unknown” to conceal material from officers.

:: Mrs Brooks and Ms Carter are also said to have “conspired together permanently” between July 6 and 9 last year to remove seven boxes of material from the NI archive.

:: Mrs Brooks, Mr Brooks, Mr Hanna, Mr Edwards and Mr Jorsling are all named on the third indictment, accused of conspiring together between July 15 and 19 of the same year to “conceal documents, computers and other electronic equipment”.

Both Ms Carter and Mr Hanna also released statements denying the allegations.

Solicitor Henri Brandman said his client Ms Carter “vigorously denies the commission of that or any offence”.

He added: “She would like to thank her family and friends for their continued support during this most unhappy period of her life.”

Mr Hanna said: “I am also innocent of the charges against me and I have no doubt that ultimately justice will prevail and I will be totally exonerated.

“I will say nothing more on this matter until then and would ask for my privacy and that of my family to be respected.”

It is understood that News International has suspended Hanna and Edwards, a driver, on full pay pending the conclusion of the cases.

Scotland Yard confirmed all six will appear together in the dock at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on June 13.

Mr Brooks, 49, a “writer” also of Churchill, Oxfordshire; Ms Carter, 48, of Mildmay Road, Chelmsford, Essex; Mr Jorsling, 39, of Aldershot, Surrey; Mr Edwards, 47, of Ashmore Road, west London, and Mr Hanna, 49, of Buckingham, Buckinghamshire, learned of the charges at Hammersmith, Basildon, Sutton, Belgravia and Bethnal Green respectively.

The charges are the first to be brought following Scotland Yard’s multimillion-pound investigations into phone-hacking, computer hacking and corruption, which have led to 50 arrests since they began in January last year.

The latest arrests took place today and involved a 50-year-old tax official and a 43-year-old woman, detained at the same address in London by detectives investigating corrupt payments to public officials.

The decision to bring charges comes just days after Mrs Brooks lifted the lid on her close relationship with the UK Prime Minister at the Leveson Inquiry into press standards.

But David Cameron’s official spokesman declined to discuss the charges, saying it would be “improper” for him to comment on an ongoing investigation.

The PM was not informed in advance of the announcement, and they were not discussed at this morning’s regular weekly Cabinet meeting in 10 Downing Street, said the spokesman.

Mrs Brooks, a Warrington-born high-flyer in Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp media empire, is one of the most high-profile figures in the newspaper industry.

She became News of the World editor in 2000 aged 31, landed the top job at The Sun in 2003 and was appointed chief executive of News International in 2009 before quitting in July 2011.

Days later she was arrested over alleged phone-hacking and corruption, offences for which she remains on bail without charge.

She was arrested again in March in connection with the separate perverting the course of justice allegation, with her husband and four others.

Mr Brooks, who has been a columnist for the Daily Telegraph as well as writing a novel entitled Citizen, met his wife at a party with Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson.

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