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Hacked Off criticises Rebekah Brooks' 'News International return'

Published 29/08/2015

Rebekah Brooks will reportedly return to News Corp as chief executive of the UK division
Rebekah Brooks will reportedly return to News Corp as chief executive of the UK division

Media reform campaigners have slammed former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks' reported return to the newspaper publisher's top job.

Reports of Ms Brooks' homecoming a year after she was cleared of all charges in the phone hacking trial was met with "incredulity" by the Hacked Off campaign.

The news came as it emerged that top executives at Rupert Murdoch's company could face corporate criminal charges over phone hacking.

Evan Harris, joint executive director of Hacked Off, said: " This could only happen in a dynastic company where normal rules of corporate governance simply do not apply.

"Mrs Brooks' successful defence at trial was that she was such an incompetent executive that she was unaware of industrial-scale criminal wrongdoing in intercepting voicemails and bribing public officials, and unaware of the vast conspiracy to cover it up, despite her admitting to destroying millions of emails and putting the company's reputation before co-operation with the police.

"Her failure has cost the company £300 million and then there is the £16 million pay-off she received while scores of her newspapers' sources have gone to jail."

The Metropolitan Police said that it has handed a "full file" of evidence to prosecutors relating to hacking at the News of the World.

It relates to evidence gathered by detectives from Operation Weeting, which stretches back to 2011 and investigated illegal voicemail interceptions at the tabloid.

News UK, which was formally known as News International, was the owner of the News of the World which closed in 2011 at the height of the hacking scandal.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "We have received a full file of evidence for consideration of corporate liability charges relating to the Operation Weeting phone hacking investigation."

Confirming they had passed on the file, the Met Police said: "On July 23, following the investigation into phone hacking at the News of the World, detectives from Operation Weeting submitted a file to the CPS for their consideration."

The decision whether to prosecute lies with the director of public prosecutions Alison Saunders.

The Financial Times broke the news Mrs Brooks will return as chief executive of the UK division of News Corp while a new editor will be appointed at its tabloid newspaper The Sun.

Mrs Brooks was cleared of all charges following a 138-day trial at the Old Bailey, as was Stuart Kuttner, the former managing editor of the News of the World.

But Andy Coulson, another former editor of the newspaper who went on to become David Cameron's director of communications, was convicted and handed an 18-month prison sentence.

Former News of the World journalists Greg Miskiw, Neville Thurlbeck, James Weatherup and Ian Edmondson pleaded guilty to their role in the hacking, along with private detective Glenn Mulcaire.

Veteran former editor Roger Alton defended Mrs Brooks' appointment, arguing that the phone hacking scandal was "in the past" and that she had proved herself "very effective".

The ex-Observer and Independent editor, who recently retired as executive editor of The Times, acknowledged that it posed public relations "challenges" and that her role could be different to the one she carried out in the past.

But he accused critics such as Mr Harris of "fighting interminable old battles" and suggested many were motivated by a dislike of Mr Murdoch.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today: "She (Mrs Brooks) is an extremely effective, talented person, most likeable, extremely good with people. He (Murdoch) values loyalty, she was very loyal and he has been very loyal to her."

"The phone hacking scandal is in the past. The verdicts have been delivered. It is quite clear that juries don't buy a lot of the arguments that were being used at the time.

"Some people pleaded guilty and served their time. The punishments have happened."

Shadow culture secretary Chris Bryant said Mr Murdoch "h as just stuck two fingers up to the British public and the thousands of people whose phones were hacked by News International".

"However you cut it, his newspapers hacked thousands of phones and made money out of the private lives of ordinary members of the public who only came into the limelight because they were victims of crime," he said.

"Hundreds of ordinary journalists lost their jobs when Mr Murdoch closed the News of the World, but it seems Rebekah Brooks is to get very special treatment. Clearly Mr Murdoch was only feigning humility when he appeared before the DCMS Select Committee.

"This decision is ludicrously premature when the CPS is still considering corporate charges against News Corp, when the House of Commons Privileges Committee has still to rule on whether three News Corp Executives lied to Parliament, as claimed by the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee when it was chaired by John Whittingdale, and when the Leveson Inquiry has still to complete the second part of its work into the events at the News of the World.

"It shows the utter contempt in which the Murdochs hold the British public that the announcement has been snuck out on the August Bank Holiday weekend."

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