Phone-hacking: Eight face criminal charges

Andy Coulson is among the seven journalists facing criminal charges over phone-hacking allegations, prosecutors have confirmed.

One year after the phone-hacking scandal erupted the first charges have now been laid against the prime minister's former head of communications and other former colleagues at the News of the World tabloid, including News International's former chief executive Rebekah Brooks.

All seven are charged with conspiring to intercept communications without lawful authority. Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire also faces charges of unlawfully intercepting communications.

Details of the charges were confirmed by Alison Levitt, the principal legal adviser to the director of public prosecutions at the CPS, in a statement read to journalists in central London this morning.

Coulson faces four additional charges relating to murdered teenager Milly Dowler, former New Labour home secretaries David Blunkett and Charles Clarke and celebrity Calum Best.

Brooks' charges relate to Milly Dowler and former Fire Brigades Union general secretary Andy Gilchrist.

"I am not guilty of these charges," she said in a statement.

"I did not authorise, nor was I aware of, phone hacking under my editorship. I am distressed and angry that the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] have reached this decision when they knew all the facts and were in a position to stop the case at this stage.

"The charge concerning Milly Dowler is particularly upsetting, not only as it is untrue but also because I have spent my journalistic career campaigning for victims of crime. I will vigorously defend these allegations."

Coulson commented: "The idea I would sit in my office dreaming up schemes that would undermine investigations is simply untrue."

News of the World's former managing editor Stuart Kuttner is also being charged over the case of Milly Dowler, whose parents' false hope that their daughter might still be alive triggered huge public anger last year and led to the newspaper's closure.

Former news editors Greg Miskiw and Ian Edmondson both face nine additional charges. Their alleged victims include former New Labour minister Tessa Jowell and her estranged husband David Mills, former deputy prime minister John Prescott and former Lib Dem frontbencher Mark Oaten.

Other alleged victims include football manager Sven Goran Eriksson, chef Delia Smith, Hollywood stars Jude Law and Sienna Miller, rock icon Paul McCartney and his ex-wife Heather Mills, and footballer Wayne Rooney.

Neville Thurlbeck, the former chief reporter who has gained notoriety as the recipient of the infamous 'for Neville' email, faces seven charges, including one relating to film star couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.

James Wetherup, the former news editor and assistant news editor, also faces seven charges.

The wide range of politicians included in the victims list underlines the importance of the phone-hacking scandal to Westminster.

But it is the charges against Coulson which are likely to prove the most damaging, as they leave prime minister David Cameron open to questions about his judgement when he hired Coulson straight from the News of the World.

Three journalists arrested by Operation Weeting, the Metropolitan police's investigation into phone-hacking, will not be charged. Police are continuing to investigate two others already arrested.

The eight facing charges will appear before Westminster magistrates court in due course. Police will contact the victims to notify them that their names appear on the indictment sheet.

It follows yesterday's extension of Operation Tuleta, the Met's probe into allegations of computer hacking, to look into reports that experts were hired by journalists to crack the security passwords of stolen mobile phones.

The Leveson inquiry into the culture, ethics and practice concludes its evidence sessions today with submissions from lawyers representing newspaper groups and a group representing their victims.