Prosecutors in the U.K. charged the former head of News Corp.'s British newspaper unit, Rebekah Brooks, on Tuesday with conspiring to obstruct justice, marking the first charges filed in a wide-ranging criminal investigation into wrongdoing at the U.S. media company's British tabloids.
Ms. Brooks, who served as editor of the News of the World and the Sun tabloids before running all of News Corp.'s newspapers in the U.K., was charged by the Crown Prosecution Service with perverting the course of justice. Prosecutors also charged her husband, Charles Brooks; her former assistant; her chauffeur; and two men who provided security for Ms. Brooks.
The obstruction charges relate to the continuing police investigation into phone hacking and the alleged corruption of public officials by News Corp. titles, the News of the World and the Sun newspapers, according to prosecutors. Ms. Brooks has also been previously arrested on suspicion of corruption and conspiring to intercept communications, but she wasn't charged Tuesday in relation to either of those allegations. She remains on bail for those allegations.
The charges spelled out by prosecutors date to a period from July 6-19 of last year, when the long-simmering phone-hacking scandal—the subject of a police probe since January 2011—boiled over publicly following a July 5 article in the Guardian newspaper alleging that the News of the World had hacked the phone of a missing teenage girl, who was later found dead. Days later, News Corp. closed the 168-year old News of the World.
Ms. Brooks, a longtime protégé of News Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch, faces three charges. Prosecutors said she conspired with her husband, Charles Brooks; Cheryl Carter, her former assistant; her chauffeur, Paul Edwards; and two individuals employed by the company that provided security for her, Mark Hanna and Daryl Jorsling. Messrs. Hanna and Edwards remain employees of News Corp.
Prosecutors said she also allegedly conspired with her former assistant, Cheryl Carter, "permanently to remove seven boxes of material from the archive of News International."
And Ms. Brooks, her husband and several of the others allegedly conspired "to conceal documents, computers and other electronic equipment" from police officers, prosecutors said.