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July 24, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Rebekah Brooks

Andy Coulson

The telephone-hacking scandal involving Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers in the U.K. escalated to new heights today (Tuesday) as Andy Coulson, Prime Minister David Cameron’s former spokesman, and Rebekah Brooks, the former head of News International, were notified that they would be charged with conspiracy to intercept communications. Prosecutors said that the alleged crimes were committed between 2000 and 2006, a time period when each served as editor of the News of the World, a Sunday tabloid that at the time boasted the largest circulation of any publication in the U.K. (It was shut down at the height of the scandal.) Six other former News of the World staffers and executives, including Stuart Kuttner, the former managing editor, and Neville Thurlbeck, the chief reporter for the NoW, also face criminal charges. Each could face a maximum sentence of two years in prison and/or a fine. In a statement, Brooks repeated what she has said numerous times under oath: “I did not authorize, nor was I aware of, phone hacking under my editorship.” Brooks already faces charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice by allegedly concealing evidence in the hacking case. The charges have been seen as a particular embarrassment to Prime Minister Cameron, who appointed Coulson as his press secretary despite being aware that Coulson had resigned as editor of News of the World when the hacking scandal first surfaced. Cameron was also known to be a close friend of Brooks, signing email messages to her with the notation LOL, which he said he thought stood for “lots of love.” Brooks is also described frequently in the press as Rupert Murdoch’s protegée. In a statement posted on his blog, Thurlbeck said that he was “most surprised and disappointed” by the charges. “I have always operated under the strict guidance and advice of News International’s lawyers and under the instructions of the newspaper’s editors which will be abundantly clear when this matter comes to court,” he said.