In an embarrassing development for Prime Minister David Cameron, two of his close associates — former communications chief Andy Coulson and ex- chief executive of News International Rebekah Brooks — were on Tuesday charged over the News of the World hacking scandal.
Six others — including five former high-profile News of the World (NoW) journalists — were also charged.
Mr. Coulson and Ms. Brooks — both former editors of the defunct NoW — were arrested in the wake of the hacking allegations and are on bail.
The Crown Prosecution Service announced that those charged faced a total of 19 offences relating to illegal interception of voicemails of some 600 people — including Hollywood actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
The most serious charge against Mr. Coulson and Ms. Brooks relates to illegally accessing phone messages of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
Recently, Ms. Brooks and her husband Charlie Brooks — a friend of Mr. Cameron since their days at Eton — were charged in a separate case relating to tampering with evidence relevant to the hacking inquiry.
In a statement, Ms. Brooks said she “did not authorise, nor was I aware of, phone hacking under my editorship”.
Mr. Coulson said he would “fight these allegations when they eventually get to court”.
Mr. Cameron has been criticised for hiring Mr. Coulson despite being warned about questions around his role in the hacking scandal.