For many in the U.K., remembering a time before the phone-hacking scandal inundated the country seems difficult. This is, after all, a scandal that’s dominated headlines, inspired two major official inquiries, shuttered one of the longest-running newspapers in the country and led to dozens of arrests. In truth, however, it’s been less than a year since accusations of phone-hacking by the now-defunct British tabloid, News of the World, fully erupted into an all-out scandal. And despite the numerous arrests over various alleged crimes, no charges have yet been made. That could, however, be about to change.
On April 18, British prosecutors announced that they were considering pressing charges in four separate cases involving a total of 11 alleged culprits. While prosecutors have refused to name names, they have revealed that those they’re considering charging include four journalists, one police officer and six unidentified figures. The charges being considered include allegations of misconduct in public office, attempts to pervert the course of justice, intimidating witnesses and violations of the country’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), which could include phone or email hacking.
“We are unable to give any timescale for charging decisions, except to say that these cases are being considered very carefully and thoroughly, and the decisions will be made as soon as is practicable,” Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said in a statement. And practicable could very well be soon, as the director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer told the AFP, “we are now entering a period where we are likely to make a decision one way or another.”
This is a major development in the emerging and ongoing investigation into alleged nefarious practices by Britain’s press. Though the scandal erupted when it was revealed that employees of NotW were behind the illegal hacking into the voicemail of a murdered girl, Milly Dowler, along with dozens of other high-profile people, the ensuing investigations have spread further beyond Murdoch’s tabloid. While at least two dozen current and former employees of Murdoch’s News International have been arrested, so have freelancers, private investigators and police officers under suspicion for various alleged offenses, including receiving pay-offs from the press.
And despite the numerous arrests, these charges would be the first laid by prosecutors since the scandal erupted. Not only would they mark a step forward in the case, they’d also all but ensure that the media scandal will continue to be headline news in Britain for quite some time.