London - British police on Thursday formally charged former tabloid editor Rebekah Brooks with phone hacking in a long-running press scandal which has struck at the heart of the country's institutions.
Police last week charged Prime Minister David Cameron's ex-media chief Andy Coulson and six other current or former employees of Rupert Murdoch's now defunct News Of The World tabloid with hacking, adding they would charge Brooks at a later date.
Brooks on Thursday appeared at Lewisham police station in London to receive the charges, which carry a maximum punishment of two years in prison, and was bailed to appear at Westminster Magistrate’s Court on September 3.
In total, police issued 19 separate charges of conspiring to illegally intercept the voicemails of 600 people, including Hollywood stars Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Jude Law as well as politicians and crime victims.
Prosecutors said the other people targeted included England and Manchester United footballer Wayne Rooney and ex-Beatle Paul McCartney.
The others charged include Stuart Kuttner, the News Of The World's former managing editor, former news editor Greg Miskiw, former head of news Ian Edmondson, former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, and reporter James Weatherup.
The last person is private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed for phone hacking for six months in 2007.
Australian-born media tycoon Murdoch, 81, was forced to close the weekly News Of The World a year ago amid a storm of revelations that its staff hacked into the voicemail messages of a murdered schoolgirl and a slew of public figures.
Brooks was editor of the tabloid from 2000 to 2003 and went on to edit The Sun, Murdoch's top-selling British tabloid, before going on to become chief executive of News International, Murdoch's British newspaper group.
“I am not guilty of these charges,” she said in a statement released by her lawyers. “I did not authorise, nor was I aware of, phone hacking under my editorship.”
Brooks was charged in May with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by allegedly trying to cover up evidence relating to phone hacking during the frantic last days of the News Of The World. - AFP