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UK phone-hacking: 4 scribes may face prosecution

April 19, 2012 01:27 IST

The United Kingdom is considering prosecuting 11 people including four journalists in connection with the phone-hacking scandal and other alleged misconduct by British newspapers, the country's chief prosecutor said on Wednesday.

The CPS, which is responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales, did not name the journalists, but said they were among 11 suspects, including one police officer.

Keir Starmer, director of Public Prosecutions, said the four journalists in the files sent by Scotland Yard may not be among the 43 people who had been arrested by the police in relation to operations regarding phone or email hacking or corrupt payments to public officials.

The first file concerned one journalist and a police officer, he said and added that "the allegations are misconduct in public office plus a Data Protection Act offence".

The second, Starmer said, "concerns one journalist and six others who are not journalists in relation to an allegation of perverting the course of justice".

The third concerned a journalist in relation to "witness intimidation and harassment", while the fourth related to "one journalist" and an allegation of a breach of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act that covers communications interception.

Starmer said,"We are now entering a period where we are likely to make a decision one way or another".

The four files relate to four police operations currently under way: Operation Weeting which looking at alleged phone hacking; Operation Elveden looking at alleged illegal payments made to police; Operation Sacha into allegations concerning former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks, her husband and a laptop; and Operation Kilo looking at leaks from within the Operation Weeting police team.

A CPS spokeswoman said, "We are not prepared to discuss the identities of those involved or the alleged offences in any greater detail at this stage as a number of related investigations are ongoing.

 "We are unable to give any timescale for charging decisions, except to say that these cases are being considered".

Starmer also published interim guidelines on the approach prosecutors should take when assessing the public interest element in cases affecting the media. He said the new rules would help lawyers with the "very difficult decisions".

Starmer said, "The decisions we are going to make are going to be extremely difficult and extremely sensitive. "We have got to make a decision because these cases are coming. We cannot duck that".

Prasun Sonwalkar in London
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