The Power Index
Gotcha! Rupert Murdoch's favourite editor, Rebekah Brooks, has been charged with perverting the course of justice and will face a jury trial that could send her to jail.
The charges allege she withheld documents and computer files from police investigating the phone-hacking scandal in July 2011, just days before she resigned as chief executive of the Murdochs' News International.
Also in the cells – if that's where she ends up after her glittering 20-year career at News – will be her husband Charlie Brooks, her chauffeur Paul Edwards, her PA Cheryl Carter, and her security guard Daryl Josling, as well as the ex-head of security at News International, so she won't be short of company.
How her old paper, The Sun, would have loved the story, had it not been one of theirs who may be heading for the slammer. How could they have resisted reprising the famous headline that greeted the sinking of the General Belgrano all those years ago?
Yes, it was "Gotcha" all right.
But, surprise, surprise, The Sun hardly even bothered with the news, which managed to rate one brief mention down the bottom of its website, beneath some 50 other stories and pictures that its editor clearly thought more important.
Up in the Twittersphere there was far more excitement, with lots of "finally" and "at last", and several quips about The Sun's campaigns to toughen up jail time for criminals.
There is now much speculation about how much time Brooks might serve if a jury finds her guilty. The maximum penalty is life imprisonment, the average 12 months, but the celebrated author Jeffrey Archer copped a four-year sentence in 2001 for concealing a diary during his libel action in which he won £500,000 damages. However, this did include some time for perjury, of which Archer was also found guilty.
It will doubtless help both the Brookses that they have a four-month old baby – delivered by a surrogate mother – that both take care of. I saw Charlie carrying her around in a sling at the weekend.
As to how Brooks was caught – and what evidence police have against her – we don't yet know, but the charge sheet alleges that seven boxes of documents were taken out of the News International archive by Brooks and her PA Cheryl Carter. Heaven knows what was in them!
It also alleges that her husband Charlie, an old Etonian ex-racehorse trainer, helped conceal computers from the police. This may well relate to a laptop found dumped in a rubbish bin near the Brooks's London home. Rumours are that this act was caught on CCTV.
The Brookses responded to the charges in a statement describing them as "weak" and "unjust". They also accused the Crown Prosecution Service of "posturing", which seemed like an odd response, given that the allegations are so precise and so concrete. But maybe that depends on what was in those boxes and on that laptop. No doubt, we shall see in due course.
Three hours later the Brookses fronted the cameras outside their solicitor's London office, with Rebekah expressing outrage that "those closest to me have been dragged into this unfairly" and stating that when the details of the case actually emerge, "people will see today as nothing more than an expensive sideshow".
Meanwhile, the pressure will mount on British Prime Minister David Cameron, who went to Eton with Charlie's brother and has been severely embarrassed by revelations of his close relationship with Rebekah, the Murdochs and News International.
One assumes he's not texted Bex his commiserations with 'lol' this time around.
This story first appeared on The Power Index. Republished with permission.