London: Media baron Rupert Murdoch's top executive Rebekah Brooks and Premier David Cameron's former aide Andy Coulson, were on Tuesday charged along with six others for criminal conspiracy to hack into phones of individuals, including top celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
In a major development in the long unwinding saga that has rocked the corridors of power in Britain, Brooks was charged, while a televised public inquiry into the culture, ethics and practices of the British press drew to a close.
The high profile former editor Brooks, who was earlier arrested and is currently on bail, was charged along with six of her colleagues at the now defunct News of the World, including former editor Andy Coulson, who was later the prime minister's director of communications.
The charges against Brooks, 44 and Coulson, 44, include hacking into murdered teenager Milly Dowler's phone.
Private investigator Glen Mulcaire has also been charged.
After examining 460 witnesses live on television, the Leveson Inquiry held its last session today.
Top politicians, including Prime Minister David Cameron, gave evidence before the committee, besides journalists and individuals affected by press coverage.
The Leveson Inquiry, which is scheduled to submit its report later this year, is one of several inquiries initiated after it was revealed last summer that murdered British teenager Dowler's phone had been hacked at the behest of Murdoch's News of the World for information to be used in sensational stories.
It was a report in The Guardian that Dowler's phone had been hacked that led to public revulsion and the closure of the News of the World, Murdoch withdrawing his multi-billion pound takeover bid for BSkyB, besides initiating a series of changes across British politics, police and the press.
The eight people charged today, including Brooks and Coulson, face a total of 19 charges related to phone-hacking.
Brooks questioned the charged framed, while former chief report Neville Thurlbeck said he would "vigorously" contest the charges.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the eight, who were arrested earlier and are currently on bail, were informed of the charges today.
All eight have been charged with conspiring to intercept communications between October 13, 2001 and August 9, 2006.
Alison Levitt, Principal Legal Adviser to the Director of Public Prosecutions, said: "All the evidence has now carefully been considered...I have concluded that in relation to eight of these thirteen suspects there is sufficient evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction in relation to one or more offences...(Prosecution) is required in the public interest in relation to each of these eight suspects".
The charges have been framed against them following evidence presented to the CPS.
The evidence was gathered during a series of ongoing inquiries initiated by Scotland Yard.
The CPS said there were more than 600 victims of phone-hacking.
Besides Dowler, the charges against the eight include hacking into the phone of leading individuals include senior Labour leaders Charles Clarke, John Prescott and David Blunkett, and celebrities such as Wayne Rooney, Brad Pitt and Anjolina Jolie, and Paul McCartney.
Besides Brooks and Coulson, others facing charges are former News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner, former news editor Greg Miskiw, former assistant editor Ian Edmondson, former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, former assistant editor James Weatherup and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
First Published: Tuesday, July 24, 2012, 20:52