LONDON — One of Rupert Murdoch’s most trusted lieutenants and five people close to her were charged Tuesday with conspiring to hide evidence of phone hacking, bringing the scandal that has raged across Britain’s media and political elite uncomfortably close to Prime Minister David Cameron.

The charges against former U.K. tabloid editor Rebekah Brooks, her husband, Charlie, and four aides are the first prosecutions since police reopened inquiries 18 months ago into wrongdoing by the country’s scandal-hungry press and its frequently intrusive reporting on celebrities and ordinary people.

Brooks, 43, faces three separate allegations of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, an offense that carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The prospect that courts will hear potentially explosive accusations against Brooks and her husband could rock both Murdoch’s global media empire and the political career of Cameron, a close friend of Brooks and her husband.

The lawbreaking allegedly involved removing computers and files in the frantic days last summer when Murdoch shut down his tainted 168-year-old News of the World tabloid in an attempt to halt a tide of public disgust over the hacking furor.

Alison Levitt, legal adviser to Britain’s director of public prosecutions, said that from July 6 to July 19 last year, Brooks and the others are alleged to have concealed documents, computers and electronic equipment from police who were conducting inquiries into phone hacking and possible bribery of public officials.