London police push for first phone-hacking charges

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Story highlights

  • Potential charges include intercepting communications and intimidating witnesses
  • Police give prosecutors files on at least one journalist, a police officer and 6 other people
  • Dozens of people have been arrested over phone hacking, but no one has been charged
  • The scandal has shaken Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

London police have asked prosecutors to file charges against at least eight people in connection with phone hacking by journalists, the Crown Prosecution Service said Wednesday.

The suspects include at least one journalist, a police officer and six other people, the CPS said, declining to name them.

Authorities said they did not know when a decision would be made about charges.

Police gave prosecutors files on one journalist suspected of intercepting communications, one suspected of intimidating and harassing witnesses, and one journalist and one police officer suspected of misconduct in public office and violation of the Data Protection Act.

One journalist and six other people are suspected of perverting the course of justice.

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Prosecutors refused to say whether the four references to journalists were to four different people, or if a single individual could face several charges.

Dozens of people have been arrested in the investigation, which has been running more than a year, but no one has been charged.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. shut down its British Sunday tabloid, the News of the World, after public outrage at the scale of illegal eavesdropping its journalists did in search of stories.

The defunct newspaper has been accused of hacking the voice mail of crime victims, politicians, celebrities and veterans.

Murdoch's son James, a top News Corp. executive, has been hammered particularly hard by the scandal. He has been called twice to testify before British lawmakers and resigned from a number of positions with British subsidiaries of his father's media empire.

Murdoch, 39, has consistently denied knowing about the scale of phone hacking at the paper.

He referred to it when he resigned as chairman of British Sky Broadcasting earlier this month, saying: "I am determined that the interests of BSkyB should not be undermined by matters outside the scope of this company."

He made clear he was trying to shield the satellite broadcaster from fallout from the newspaper scandal, saying: "I believe that my resignation will help to ensure that there is no false conflation with events at a separate organization."

The resignation comes on the heels of his stepping down from News Corp.'s British newspaper publishing companies in the wake of scandals over the past year.

When he quit as chairman of News International in February, the company said it was to focus on News Corp.'s pay television services.

London's Metropolitan Police are conducting three separate investigations into the scandal, which includes allegations of phone and e-mail hacking and police bribery.

Two parliamentary committees and an independent inquiry led by a judge are also probing the scandal.

It broke as News Corp. moved to expand its ownership of BSkyB last summer -- a plan it shelved as politicians and the public expressed outrage about the hacking of the voice mail of a missing teenage girl who later turned out to have been murdered.

James Murdoch has been seen as a potential heir to his father's media empire.

In a letter to parliament's Culture, Media and Sport committee last month, he said he could have asked more questions of senior officers at the firm, but rejected the suggestion that his resignation as chief executive reflected unrevealed knowledge relating to the scandal.

"I take my share of responsibility for not uncovering wrongdoing earlier," he wrote in the letter, dated March 12 and published by lawmakers.

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