British police have charged British Prime Minister David Cameron’s ex-media chief Andy Coulson with phone hacking as a long-running press scandal lapped at the door of 10 Downing Street.
Former tabloid editor Rebekah Brooks will also be charged at a later date, police confirmed.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said eight current or former employees of Rupert Murdoch’s now defunct News of the World tabloid would answer hacking charges, which carry a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
In total, police issued 19 separate charges of conspiring to illegally intercept the voicemails of about 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 soccer player Wayne Rooney and ex-Beatle Paul McCartney.
“I have concluded that a prosecution is required in the public interest in relation to each of these eight suspects,” senior prosecutor Alison Levitt said in a live televised announcement.
The others charged include former News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner, former news editor Greg Miskiw, former head of news Ian Edmondson, former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck and former reporter James Weatherup.
The last person is private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed for phone hacking for six months in 2007.
All eight will appear in court in London on Aug. 16, the CPS said.
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.
Coulson, 44, edited the News of the World from 2003 to 2007 and went on to become Cameron’s spokesman, but resigned from that post in January last year after he was questioned over the scandal. He was arrested last year.
“I will fight these allegations when they eventually get to court,” Coulson told reporters outside his house.
Brooks, also 44, 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 authorize, 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.