Phone-hacking trial: Court hears details of Rebekah Brooks love letter

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.

  • Late start due to London tube strike
  • Brooks' computer hard drive destroyed
  • Full text of Brooks' letter to Coulson given to jury
  • Jury excused until 17 February

Due to a combination of legal argument and the London Underground strike it was 12.25pm before the jury took their seats to hear the conclusion of the prosecution case. Four defendants were in the dock; from right to left, Andy Coulson, Rebekah Brooks, Charlie Brooks and Mark Hannah. Mr Justice Saunders thanked the jury for coming in - "the Dunkirk spirit" as he called it. The day began with the jury being given a copy of the agreed transcript of a conversation between Andy Coulson and former Home Secretary David Blunkett to add to their large collection of documents. They were also given hard copies of emails referred to in last week's evidence and a list of initials found on convicted hacker Glenn Mulcaire's notes,to add to the "top left schedule" which links alleged phone-hacks with stories from the News of the World. The four sets of initials on Mulcaire's notes were of Greg, Neville, James and another we cannot name for legal reasons.

Trial: Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson

Ms Pople, for Andy Coulson, then rose to cross examine the police officer presenting the top left schedule, DC Nicholas Oskiewicz. She pointed to duplicate entries on the document and suggested there were nine repeated entries. Judge Saunders then intervened and suggested this was a "relatively small number" compared to the size of the document, to which Pople agreed. The barrister then put it to the officer that the stories linked to the phone-hack were not always about the person allegedly hacked. Indeed one, she suggested, was placed together with an interview with the subject. There were also, Pople said, stories linked to Mulcaire and calls to a landline or 0845 number.

Pople then asked about entries on the schedule relating to former News of the World News editor Greg Miskiw. The officer confirmed that 456 of the entries related to Miskiw's, 73 of them from after the time he left the News of the World for Mercury Press. There were also three entries, Pople said, where police were aware a human source had been paid for the story.

Court then rose for lunch.

When the case resumed after the lunch interval, Mark Bryan-Heron QC, for the prosecution, gave the jury a further list of "admissions". These are facts agreed by all parties in the case which the members of the jury are told are just as important pieces of evidence as that which they hear from witnesses. The first of these related to email storage at News International. Email back ups were taken every night and stored on tape for six months by an outsourced provider. However, technical issues led to this policy not being applied successfully. On 12 January 2011 an additional back up was taken and in February police requested this be secured for evidential purposes. In September 2011, News International identified an additional back up server which allowed 1.49 million of the four million emails purged in 2010 to be recovered. Emails from Rebekah Brooks' own account were not recovered but some sent to her by other employees were found. The percentage of Brooks' emails the police have access to cannot be confirmed, the court was told.

The prosecution then went on to an admission about Rebekah Brooks' computer hard drive. This, the court was told, went missing during a change of PC's after it was given to Paul Cheesbrough, the company head of IT. News International's legal department later circulated a list of hard drives that should not be destroyed. Brooks' name was not on it. The prosecution put it to the court that News International's legal department therefore "sanctioned" the destruction of this data.

The jury was then read a witness statement from James Shelley, a Ministry of Defence press officer. Shelley testified that he was in contact with a Sun employee, who we cannot name for legal reasons, and had a professional relationship with him. Shelley stated that he would not "lie" to a journalist if a story was accurate or ask one what his source of information was. He would, however, attempt to "limit the damage" of any negative story by sometimes replacing one story with another. In addition, the statement said he would meet journalists to promote his department but these would be recorded.

The prosecution then asked the jury to add another set of documents to their evidence folders. This was evidence, already mentioned by the defence in cross examination, that Glenn Mulcaire hacked the mobile phone messages of both Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson. This included a handwritten transcript of a voicemail with "Rebekah" written on top. The name of Brooks' then partner, Ross Kemp, also appeared on Mulcaire's notes, the court was told.

The jury was then given a copy of a letter found on Brooks' computer by the police and told to read this to themselves. The the court fell unusually silent while this was done. Andrew Edis QC then read part of the letter, which the court had already heard was addressed to Andy Coulson. The part read in court was as follows:

"Finally, and the least of our worries, but how do we really work this new relationship? There are a hundred things that have happened since Saturday night that I would normally share with you, some important, most trivial. The fact is you are my very best friend. I tell you everything, I confide in you, I seek your advice, I love you, care about you, worry about you. We laugh and cry together. In fact without our relationship in my life, I am really not sure how I will cope. I'm frightened to be without you, but bearing in mind 'the rules' you will not know how I am doing and vice versa.

"The thought of finding out anything about you or your life from someone else fills me with absolute dread. Also you said I had to email you if anything important happened, like if I was ill?I don't understand this, we are either there for each other or not surely? Anyway, that really isn't where I am confused. I know what horror it means and I know why we have to stick to it. But for example, how does this work thing manifest itself. Do we limit contact until we absolutely have to, like leaving our execs to sort run-of-the-mill joint stuff? I don't want to get this wrong.

"I hope that I've managed to put your mind at rest about Les, and that you two now have a better relationship. On KRM, well he's not bollocking you, you must not brood on lack of calls. Obviously I can't discuss my worries, concerns, problems at work with you anymore, and vice versa, but I'll assume unless I hear different that we keep our professional relationship to the minimum, and avoid if possible without it being in any way awkward.

If it is necessary or more importantly right that we two editors should deal with it, then we will. If either of us feels that we are not striking this balance then we must say."

Another admission was then read to the court. In this, Bettina Jordan-Barber, a Minstry of Defence employee, had pleaded over "misconducting herself in a public office". Emails were then read to the court in which a Sun employee asked Rebekah Brooks to authorise cash payments for his "number one military source".

Documents confirming mobile telephone cell site location evidence that the court has already heard were then given to the jury.

The final set of admissions given to the court confirmed some names relating to the hacking of the phones of Sven Goran-Eriksson and newspaper articles relating to former Fire Brigades Union leader Andy Gilchrist and the 2003 strike he led. These were overwhelmingly critical of the union and of Gilchrist personally.

Mr Justice Saunders then told the jury they should now leave and return on Monday 17 February. He added that he hoped they would enjoy the break. "We'll be working, I assure you," he told them.

The rest of the court day was taken up by legal matters.

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

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

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