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Rebekah Brooks withdrew trial-costs bid after judge asked for second opinion on phone-hacking questions, court told

Rebekah Brooks withdrew her bid for millions of pounds in legal costs after a judge sought a second opinion on whether he could ask her former employer questions about phone-hacking, a court was told today.

The surprise move, which came only a day before the matter was to be discussed in open court, came after Mr Justice Saunders asked for the appointment of an "Amicus", the legal term for a friend of the court, to help him decide if he could ask News UK a series of questions about "the relationship between News International and the News of the World and the conduct of News International," and if this should influence his decision on Brooks' application.

News UK had argued that its conduct, and that of its parent company, was irrelevant to the costs decision and that it would be legally wrong for a judge to consider evidence about the company given at the phone-hacking trial at which "they were not a party and could not challenge."

However, a few hours before the Amicus was due to give his opinion the company's barrister said they would not be seeking to recover costs from Brooks and she withdrew her motion,

Judge Saunders also ruled that since the matter had been dropped by News UK, the press would not be given copies of the questions he had asked the company as they had never been raised in open court.

The judge said he was concerned the public would think the questions "represented his view" rather than just being matters on which he wanted to hear submissions.

Saunders also said that, as the action had been withdrawn, he would not reveal the total amount of costs News UK was seeking to recover before dropping its case, estimates of the sum it was seeking after the marathon trial range from £7m to £25m.

In a statement the company said: "Given the certainty that our costs would continue to increase disproportionately, we've taken the pragmatic view not to seek repayment from the defendants for legal costs borne by the company."

Brooks was acquitted on charges of conspiracy to illegally intercept communications and pervert the course of justice earlier this year.