Rupert Murdoch’s recent decision to distance himself from the UK newspaper wing of his global empire looks ever more like a smart move, as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced charges against several former News International executives, chief among them Rebakah Brooks and Andy Coulson. These two, both former editors of the now-defunct News of the World, now face various counts of conspiring unlawfully to intercept communications – otherwise known as phone hacking – together with Stuart Kuttner, Ian Edmondson, Greg Miskiw, Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup, all previously employed at high levels of Murdoch’s company. The prosecutions are the first to be announced that directly relate to phone hacking, and coincided with the conclusion of hearings at the Leveson Inquiry. That lengthy process expects to report its findings in the autumn.
Coulson can now add his phone-hacking charges to one of perjury, relating to the trial of Tommy Sheridan, while Brooks has already been charged with perverting the course of justice in connection with the police investigation into phone hacking.
While James Murdoch has persistently attempted to cling on to his management role – only stepping down from his position as executive chairman of News International in February, despite widely-ridiculed appearances at the Leveson inquiry and in front of the Select Committee last year – Rupert has not been slow to take action when it appears the battle is lost. The News of the World was closed shortly after the Milly Dowler scandal broke and, with the conclusion of Leveson and despite his claim to be “fully committed” as chairman, it is expected that he will sell off some – if not all – of his publishing interests in the UK. He will no doubt aim to be fully away from any further tarnishing by the time Lord Leveson reports back and Coulson and the rest are in the dock.