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A member of the protest group Avaaz dresses as Rupert Murdoch during a demonstration with other placard-holding activists outside the High Court in central London on April 25, 2012. - 

Stacey Vanek Smith: The long running scandal over phone hacking has erupted once again. Eight people who worked for the now defunct News of the World face criminal charges.

Joining us to explain is our London bureau chief Stephen Beard. Good morning Stephen.

Stephen Beard: Hello, Stacey.

Vanek Smith: So Stephen, who are these eight people and what exactly are they charged with? 

Beard: They all worked in senior positions at the News of the World, as you say, one of Rupert Murdoch’s best performing papers until he closed it, over this scandal, last year. These eight include: former editor Andy Coulson who later worked as the British prime minister’s press secretary and Rebekah Brooks who was the boss of Murdoch’s British newspaper group. Most of these eight will be charged with intercepting communications and could be face a maximum penalty of two years in jail.

Vanek Smith: And this relates to people hacking into phones to find news stories, right?

Beard: That’s right. A large number of people, it seems, were affected, as many as 600, including celebrities like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, apparently had their phones hacked. But it was the hacking of the phone of a missing schoolgirl who it turned out later had been murdered, that led to this huge wave of revulsion against the Murdoch press and precipitated these prosecutions. It’s been alleged that the cozy relationship between senior politicians and the press and the police had stymied earlier efforts to get to the bottom of this scandal.

Vanek Smith: Well, seeing as how his former press secretary is involved, how much of this is an embarrassment for Prime Minister David Cameron?

Beard: Huge. His critics say that he recruited Coulson, knowing about this scandal, in order to suck up to Rupert Murdoch. This case, when it comes to court, should not only embarrass the prime minister further, it’ll deliver another blow to Murdoch’s standing in the UK and may well lead to him eventually severing all ties with his British newspapers and selling them off.

Vanek Smith: Our own Stephen Beard in London, thank you Stephen.

Beard: OK, Stacey.