On Sunday July 17th 2011, former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, 43, was arrested by appointment following investigations into her involvement in the UK’s phone hacking (Operation Weeting) and police bribery (Operation Elvedon) scandals. Brooks is the tenth person to be arrested in relation to the News of the World phone hacking and police bribery scandals.
Arrested by appointment is “similar to giving oneself up to the authorities,” said Columbia College of Missouri Professor of Criminal Justice Michael D. Lyman in an online definition.
“If you are aware that there is a warrant out for your arrest, you can contact the police and tell them you will come into the station at a specific time,” Lyman explains and adds, “It is often done to show that you are cooperating with authorities. Such an action may also result in lower bail settings.”
A spokesman for Brooks said that she was informed on Friday, after she announced her resignation, that she would be arrested. Brooks is scheduled to answer questions posed by a parliamentary committee in London on Tuesday July 19th regarding her involvement and knowledge of the phone hacking and police bribery allegations.
Mark Lewis, family lawyer for teenage murder victim, Milly Dowler, whose phone was hacked, said that questions now need to be asked about the timing of Brooks’ arrest.
“The timing stinks,” Lewis said. “Undoubtedly she will have the option of saying on Tuesday, “I’m sorry I can’t answer that because I am under police investigation.” It gives the impression that those questions can’t be asked,” Lewis said and added, ” It looks deliberate.”
Michael White of The Guardian newspaper in a BBC interview said, “This is a bit of showbiz by the police. The Met want to take the heat off themselves.” White added that this was over-compensation by the police for previous failures. “This is laying it on with a trowel,” White added.
Former deputy editor of the News of the World, Paul Connew said the timing of Brooks’ arrest was surprising given her scheduled appearance before the parliamentary committee on Tuesday.
“It begs the question of whether she will be much more inhibited in what she will say,” Connew said.
Brooks’ own connection with politicians has also come into question. Both David Cameron and Gordon Brown were at her wedding to Charlie Brooks. British Prime Minister David Cameron and Rebekah Brooks allegedly socialize together.
University of Sussex politics professor Tim Bale describes the town where David Cameron and Rebekah Brooks have homes as “a cosy elite at the top of the media/political complex.”
The connection continues with Andy Coulson, former News of the World editor and later David Cameron’s director of communications. Coulson quit the latter in January after phone hacking allegations grew more serious.
Labour Party leader Ed Milliband was quoted in The Observer saying Ms. Brooks and former prime minister Tony Blair were close during his 10 year run as England’s political leader. Milliband also blasted Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corp. International, as an abuser of power. News Corp. International owns News of the World as well as many other media companies including the Fox Channel in America, The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal.
The “amount of power in one person’s hands has clearly led to abuses of power in his organization,” Milliband said.
Labour legislator Chris Bryant in a telephone interview with The New York Times said, “I do find it odd that they should arrest her now by appointment.”
Bryant continued on to say that police attention should now focus on Rupert Murdoch’s own son James and his knowledge of payments made to people who complained of phone hacking.
The background to the phone hacking scandal began when Rebekah Brooks was editor of News of the World.
Milly Dowler, a 13 year old was murdered on March 21 2002. The murder victim’s phone was hacked by journalists from the News of the World according to Dowler family lawyer Mark Lewis.
The Dowler family were led to believe that Milly was still alive due to the phone hacking. During a period when the Dowlers believed that their daughter was alive but missing, her phone’s voice mails, once full of pleas and well wishes from friends and family members, had all been deleted.
In addition to alleged wide spread phone hacking that effected celebrities, politicians and sports stars; the scandal further erupted into allegations of police bribery.
In 2003, Brooks, then editor of The Sun, admitted, “We have paid police for information in the past.” In April of this year Brooks said that the statement referred to a “widely held belief,” rather than specific cases.
Sir Paul Stephenson, head of Scotland Yard, London’s Metropolitan Police, has been accused of hiring former News of the World executive Neil Wallis as a public relations adviser. Wallis was arrested for questioning last week regarding his own involvement with the hacking scandals.
Earlier this year Stephenson rehabbed for a fractured leg injury for five weeks at a spa where Wallis worked. The allegations have been rebuked by Scotland Yard who have denied that Stephenson even knew Wallis worked there.
Questions that need to be asked at this point:
1. Is this “arrest by appointment” a way of using the law to prevent Brooks from answering any questions posed by the parliamentary committee?
2. Is Rebekah Brooks the “fall” girl for the Rupert Murdoch empire? There are at least a dozen more arrests to follow according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
3. Will media ethics and practices get revised to be globally more uniform in their definitions? Will there still be “Freedom of the Press?”
4. Is Rupert Murdoch’s empire coming undone? The Times of India quotes Prince AlWaleed bin Talal, second largest shareholder in News Corp International, as saying, “News Corp’s bid for buying BSkyB is shelved, it is not dead.”
5. How similar will the US situation be and how powerful is Murdoch’s empire here in the US to prevent honest and accurate investigations from taking place?