LONDON — British police have handed prosecutors files on 11 suspects which could lead to the first charges from a huge probe into phone-hacking at Rupert Murdoch's newspapers, officials said Wednesday.
Four journalists, one police officer and six other people feature in the four files that are now being considered by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer said.
Revelations that media baron Murdoch's News of the World illegally accessed the voicemails of a murdered schoolgirl, as well as dozens of celebrities, politicians and crime victims, forced him to close the Sunday tabloid in July.
"We are now entering a period where we are likely to make a decision one way or another" on whether to charge the suspects, Starmer said as he announced new guidelines on how prosecutors should deal with cases involving the media.
A total of 43 people who have been arrested by Scotland Yard during the course of the investigation which was launched in January 2011 remain on bail, added Starmer.
They include Prime Minister David Cameron's former spokesman Andy Coulson, former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks, and her racehorse trainer husband Charlie Brooks.
The CPS said it had received four files from parallel police investigations into phone-hacking, bribery of police and the leaking of information by police to The Guardian -- the paper which helped uncover the News of the World scandal.
One file involved a journalist and a police officer facing allegations of misconduct in public office and data protection offences, it said.
The second involved allegations against one journalist and six members of the public of perverting the course of justice.
The third involved allegations against a journalist of witness intimidation and the fourth involved a journalist allegedly breaching regulations governing investigatory powers.
"We are not prepared to discuss the identities of those involved or the alleged offences in any greater detail at this stage as a number of related investigations are ongoing," the CPS said in a statement.
"We are unable to give any timescale for charging decisions, except to say that these cases are being considered very carefully and thoroughly, and the decisions will be made as soon as is practicable."
An initial 2006 police investigation into hacking led to the jailing of News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman and private detective Glenn Mulcaire, but the tabloid insisted the case was a one-off.
Allegations emerged in 2009 that the practice was widespread at the paper, but police only reopened a full investigation in January 2011 following a campaign by The Guardian and The New York Times.
Murdoch shut down the 168-year-old News of the World in July and his US-based News Corporation empire set up an independent committee which has since cooperated with police.
Police have also arrested several journalists from Murdoch's market-leading British daily tabloid, The Sun, partly as a result of that information.
Murdoch launched a new Sunday edition of The Sun in February.
The scandal has already cost News International, the British newspaper wing of News Corp., more than £79 million ($125 million, 96 million euros), company figures revealed this month.
News International has settled with dozens of victims, including British actor Jude Law, footballer Ashley Cole and former deputy prime minister John Prescott.
The scandal has also gone to the heart of the Murdoch dynasty, with his son and heir apparent James stepping down from his roles at both News International and Sky News television in recent months.
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