News UK could face corporate criminal charges after the Metropolitan Police has handed a "full file" of evidence to prosecutors relating to hacking at News of the World.
The development comes as the FT reports that Rebekah Brooks is returning to News Corp as chief executive of its UK division (which includes The Sun, Times, Sunday Times and Harper Collins).
- October 8, 2009
Brooks quit her previous job as chief executive of News International four years ago with a reported pay-off of £16m which included coverage of her legal fees.
In June 2014 Brooks was found not guilty of conspiracy to hack phones, pay-off public officials and pervert the course of justice by hiding evidence from police.
The corporate prosecution of News UK 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 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.
In June 2014 The Guardian reported that the Met Police were set to interview News Corp chief executive Rupert Murdoch. Since then there has been no report of Murdoch being questioned and both the Met and News Corp have declined to comment on the matter.
In June this year the Met would only say that investigations were ongoing with regard to allegations of corporate criminality at News UK.
Trinity Mirror is also the subject of a corporate investigation by the Met Police over its involvement in phone-hacking.
Labour MP Tom Watson, who has been a fierce critic of News International, told the FT: "There are a lot of people who won’t see eye to eye with Rebekah Brooks, and I’m probably one of them, but she’s entitled to rebuild her life."
But campaign group Hacked Off was less forgiving.
Executive director of the group Evan Harris 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."
News UK chief executive Mike Darcey was in the offce today and said to have a full diary.
A News Corp spokesman said: "As we've said before we have been having discussions with Rebekah Brooks and when we have any announcements to make we will let you know."