Phone-hacking trial: Court hears of 'uncomfortable moment' as Rebekah Brooks was escorted out of News International

The trial of former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, the prime minister's former director of communications Andy Coulson and six others began at the Old Bailey on 28 October. The Drum will be in court for the duration of the trial, which is expected to last at least four months, and will provide comprehensive updates on this blog.

The trial is scheduled to examine seven counts that include conspiracy to intercept communications in the course of their transmission, conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office, and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Coverage will be provided by James Doleman, who was acclaimed for his exhaustive and responsible reporting of the Tommy Sheridan perjury trial.

Trial reaches day 40 - key points:

'Uncomfortable': Rebekah Brooks was escorted from the building

  • Brooks had accommodation and "switch teams" prepared due to police interest
  • News of the World offices sealed after closure
  • Brooks "shocked and upset" when escorted from premises

When court resumed after lunch Deborah Keegan, a former personal assistant to Rebekah Brooks, was recalled to the stand to be questioned further by Andrew Edis QC for the Crown. Edis presented to the jury two documents which he had them add to their evidence folders. The prosecution barrister asked the witness about an email she sent to HSBC bank asking them to call her. The witness initially said she did not know what it was about and Edis reminded her that she had answered that question yesterday. Keegan then replied that it may have been at attempt to show where Brooks had been when the "Milly Dowler voicemail" story had been printed. The court has already heard that Brooks was in Dubai when the story was published.

Edis then asked the witness to clarify her evidence yesterday that she had never thought the police would be interested in Rebekah Brooks. He showed the witness an email from News International security chief Mark Hanna copied to her on 5 July 2007 which discussed arrangements for Brooks' accommodation, the need for "switch teams" and a change of vehicle if there were "police concerns".

The jury was then asked to leave the court while a legal issue was dealt with.

When the jury returned Edis asked the witness what this email "meant to her". Keegan said she was focused on media interest. Justice Saunders intervened and asked if the witness thought the media interest was linked to possible police action. Keegan replied she was not sure. A further email was shown to the witness with the subject "Ken McDonald". Keegan told the court she did not know who this was.

Edis then said he would change the subject and showed the witness a red folder of newspaper and magazine cuttings. This, the witness told the court belonged to defendant Cheryl Carter and was linked to her make-up business. The witness said she had seen a folder like this before but could not recall specific occasions.

The prosecutor then asked the witness to clarify her earlier statement that documents had to be kept for seven years for "legal reasons". Keegan said that was her understanding and she "may have" received formal instructions on this from News International. Edis then questioned the witness about Carter's planned move to Australia and Keegan told the court that it was a long-standing ambition of her colleague, "but the time was never quite right". The court has already heard Carter and her family had a visa to enter Australia which was due to run out in February 2012. Keegan was then asked about her evidence this morning that Brooks knew nothing about the withdrawal of seven boxes of documents from the News International archive: "How do you know that?" Edis asked. "She would have no reason to be concerned," the witness responded.

Edis then asked Keegan where, if Brooks did not use notebooks, she wrote down things she wished to keep permanently. The witness said she didn't know, but assumed it would be in the filing cabinet. Asked if therefore there were notebooks filed, Keegan replied: "There may have been." The witness confirmed that she did not attend meetings with Brooks or attended editorial conferences. Keegan also told the court that Brooks owned both an iPad and an iPhone but found them difficult to use. Edis asked if the witness still worked for News International, which she does, but Keegan could still not recall who Ken McDonald is.

Edis then had the witness look at a document from News International. This, Edis said, appeared to be a list of the contents of five boxes. Keegan said this was not related to the boxes of documents referred to in charge six and represented a different set of paperwork. Justice Saunders then intervened with a query, as this information was sorted and listed it was in contrast to her earlier testimony that she had just "shoved items in boxes". The witness said she could not explain this.

The jury was then asked to leave the court.

When the jury returned, a new witness was called to the stand - News International facilities manager Jane Viner.

Mark Bryant-Heron asked Viner about herself and about events in July 2011. The witness told the court she had first heard about the closure of the News of the World through an email on 7 July 2011. After the announcement, Viner was asked to assist in physically securing the News of the World's offices, acting on advice from the company's legal department and the Metropolitan Police. The witness was tasked with ensuring that employees did not remove property that might be needed in the police investigation. There was, however, no move to seal off the 10th floor of the building where the executive offices were. Mark Hanna, the security director and a defendant in the case, was also part of the process.

On the Saturday night before the last issue of the paper, the witness told the court, each desk and computer was numbered and listed. On the Monday following, two police officers inspected the premises while items were packed and moved to secure storage. On the following Friday, Brooks resigned from News International and was told to leave the building by lunchtime. Viner met with Brooks and explained that she could only take personal items with her. Viner and a member of the security staff then escorted Brooks from the building. The witness told the court Brooks carried only a small bag. As Brooks was now considered a "person of interest" by the police, Viner changed the lock on Brooks' office door and had a member of the security staff guard it until the police arrived.

Bryant-Heron then asked if the area where Brooks' personal assistants sat was also sealed off. The witness told the court it was not.

The witness was then asked about Mark Hanna's movements on 17 July, the day of Brooks' arrest. Viner told the court that he was in Oxfordshire in the morning and later returned to London. While the witness was Hanna's line manager, she was not acting under her instructions that day. This, Viner said, was not unusual as he often acted on direct instructions from other members of the executive team. The witness did not know on whose direction Hanna was acting on that day.

Viner told the court that she had spoken to Hanna that morning by telephone and he had informed her he was not driving his own car that day as someone else was using his. Concerned about the insurance situation, Viner emailed the company insurers to arrange for both vehicles to be covered. The other driver was named by the witness as Lee Sandell, a security contractor occasionally employed by the company.

The prosecution then moved on to the events of Monday 18 July. On that day, the witness said, a police officer arrived at the office to collect items from Rebekah Brooks' office. On that same day, the witness said that records showed that Cheryl Carter had sent two items from News International to Rebekah Brooks' London home, one was a small package and the other an envelope. On the Friday, Carter left the company and Viner told her to only take personal items with her.

Jonathan Laidlaw, QC for Brooks, then rose to question the witness. The barrister asked the witness about 15 July, the day of his client's resignation from News International. The witness confirmed that Brooks was required to leave her computer equipment behind, apart from her Blackberry which had been "locked out" of the company email system. Viner told the court that Brooks looked "upset and shocked" as she was escorted off the premises. "It was a very uncomfortable moment," the witness said.

Court then rose for the day, and will resume at 10am on Monday.

All of the remaining defendants continue to deny all of the charges, the trial continues.

Click here to view more posts from The Drum's daily trial coverage

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