What are the phone hacking charges?

Last week, hot on the heels of the Leveson enquiry, the CPS announced phone hacking charges against several high profile media figures.

But what exactly are the charges?  ‘Phone hacking’ or more prosaically, ‘unlawful interception of communications’ is an offence under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.  Under s1(2) of that act an offence is committed when someone intentionally, and without lawful authority, intercepts, anywhere in the UK, any communication in the course of its transmission by means of a private telecommunication system i.e. listening to a private voicemail message without the sender or recipients knowledge.  This means the prosecution must prove that any phone hacking did not happen accidentally and that there was no lawful authority that allowed the ‘hacking’ to take place.  Lawful authority for the interception of communications only exists in very limited circumstances, for example where either consent for the interception is given, or where it is done in accordance with another statutory power.

The charge is an ‘either way’ offence meaning it can be heard in either the Magistrates or Crown Court.  It is too early to say whether there will be sufficient evidence to convict anyone of the charges, but should anyone be convicted, they could face a prison sentence of up to two years, and could also face a fine.

If you find yourself facing charges you should contact a solicitor immediately.  emeryjohnson can offer free 24 hour legal advice at the Police Station, and have a wealth experience to advise and assist you throughout any criminal proceedings.




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