Rebekah Brooks granted bail over phone hacking

Rebekah Brooks, a former top aide to Rupert Murdoch and friend of British premier David Cameron, was granted bail by a court in London on charges relating to the phone-hacking scandal.

Her first court appearance came amid new reverberations from the scandal, with a rift opening in the coalition government over a parliamentary vote concerning a minister's dealings with Murdoch's US-based News Corporation.

Brooks, 44, sat alongside her racehorse trainer husband Charlie Brooks, 49, and four others facing charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in the police investigation into hacking at the News of the World.

Brooks - who resigned last July as chief executive of News International (NI), Murdoch's British newspaper operation - and her spouse were greeted by a media scrum as they arrived at the court.

After a short hearing, their first since they were charged on May 15, all six were bailed to appear again on June 22. All spoke only to confirm their dates of birth and addresses.

Brooks faces three charges of removing boxes of material from the archive of News International, and trying to conceal documents, computers and other material from police during the frantic last days of the News of the World.

The tabloid closed down in disgrace in July 2011 after it emerged that it had hacked the phone of Milly Dowler, a murdered schoolgirl.

Charlie Brooks, his wife's personal assistant Cheryl Carter and her chauffeur Paul Edwards all face one charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

NI's head of security Mark Hanna, and Daryl Jorsling, who provided security for Brooks that was supplied by NI, also face one charge each.

The charges carry a maximum term of life imprisonment.

Flame-haired Brooks edited the News of the World from 2000 to 2003 before taking up the same post at The Sun, Murdoch's top-selling British daily tabloid.

She moved in the highest circles of British politics, and testified to Britain's Leveson inquiry into press ethics last month about her close friendship with Conservative prime minister Cameron.

Cameron is due to appear before the inquiry, when he is likely to face scrutiny over his ties to Brooks.

He also came under pressure on Wednesday after the Liberal Democrats said they would not back embattled Conservative culture minister Jeremy Hunt over his handling of News Corp's bid for full control of pay-TV giant BSkyB.

Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told his lawmakers they could abstain from a vote introduced by the opposition Labour party calling for a probe into whether Hunt broke the ministerial code of conduct.

The Conservatives still won the non-binding vote, by 290 to 252, a majority of 38, but the result exposed the divisions in the coalition.

Hunt defended himself against the "disgraceful allegation'' that he deliberately misled parliament, telling opposition lawmakers: "I have made huge efforts to be transparent and you know that perfectly well.''

News Corp abandoned the BSkyB bid when the hacking scandal blew up last year.

Clegg told the inquiry in evidence that his party had not tried to curry favour with Murdoch as the Conservatives and Labour had.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond meanwhile said in evidence that he believed his bank account was hacked by The Observer - a sister newspaper of The Guardian, which led the investigation into hacking by Murdoch's empire.

The paper's publisher said it had found no evidence to support his claim.

The charges against Brooks and the other five defendants are the first since Scotland Yard opened a huge new investigation into hacking and bribery in which more than 40 people have been arrested.

A News of the World journalist and a private detective were jailed for hacking in 2007 but the paper insisted they were rogue operators.


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