Rebekah Brooks, the former top aide to Rupert Murdoch and friend of Prime Minister David Cameron, appeared in court for the first time Wednesday to face charges relating to the phone-hacking scandal.
Her appearance came amid fresh political shockwaves from the scandal, with a rift opening in the coalition government over dealings with Murdoch’s News Corp and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg testifying at a press ethics inquiry.
Brooks, 44, her racehorse trainer husband Charlie Brooks, 49, and four other people face charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by obstructing investigations into wrongdoing at the News of the World tabloid.
Brooks and her husband arrived at Westminster Magistrates Court in London in a black London taxi where a huge scrum of cameramen and reporters was waiting for them. Police whisked them past the queue for security.
She was wearing a green scarf and dark blue jacket and sat next to her husband, who wore a charcoal suit and navy tie, an AFP reporter in court said. The couple looked relaxed and were both smiling, unlike the other defendants.
After a short hearing, their first since they were charged on May 15, they were bailed to appear at Southwark Crown Court on June 22. All spoke only to confirm their dates of birth and addresses.
Rebekah Brooks faces three charges of removing boxes of material from the archive of News International, the UK newspaper arm of Murdoch’s News Corp, and trying to conceal documents, computers and other material from police.
The flame-haired Brooks edited the News of the World from 2000-2003 and then the Sun, Murdoch’s daily tabloid. She resigned as chief executive of News International in July, days after the weekly tabloid closed down in disgrace.
Charlie Brooks, Cheryl Carter, 48, Brooks’s personal assistant, Mark Hanna, the head of security at News International, Brooks’s chauffeur Paul Edwards, 47, who was employed by News International, and Daryl Jorsling, 39, who provided security for Brooks that was supplied by NI, all face one charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
The charges carry a potential term of life imprisonment.
Brooks moved in the highest circles of British politics, and testified to the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics inquiry last month about her close friendship with Conservative prime minister Cameron.
Clegg, the Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister in the coalition government, appeared before the inquiry on Wednesday where he initially answered questions about the relationship between politicians and the press.