Phone-hacking trial: Rebekah Brooks' attempt to hide evidence was codenamed 'Operation Blackhawk', jury told

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.

At 10am today, the trial of former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, former News of the World editor Andrew Coulson and six others resumed at London's central criminal court, the Old Bailey. The jury continued to hear from Andrew Edis QC who is opening the prosecution case.

Hacking trial: The prosecution opening statement continues

Edis began today's proceedings by reading to the court public statements made by Rebekah Brooks in her capacity as chief executive of News International in January 2011. At this stage, stories about phone-hacking were dominating the press, sparking what Edis described as a "media firestorm". In the statements, Brooks calls the allegations against the News of the World "horrific" and pledges to take the "strongest possible action" to allow "justice to be done".

"Is this what happened?" Edis asked the Jury.

The QC then read to the jury emails from Brooks to various other executives in News International where she is asking about progress in deleting email traffic up to and including January 2011. She also, the prosecution allege, had her personal assistant and fellow accused, Cheryl Carter, remove seven boxes of Brooks' notebooks from the archive at News International just before police were due to search the premises. These notebooks, Edis told the jury, have never been found.

Edis then went on introduce charge seven on the indictment: conspiracy to pervert the course of Justice, which is levelled at Rebekah Brooks, her husband Charles Brooks and former head of security at News International Mark Hanna. Edis told the jury this charge related to events on the 15th of July 2011, when Rebekah Brooks was arrested by police investigating alleged phone-hacking at the News of the World.

Solicitors papers showed, he said, the Brooks knew she was to be arrested that day and that, as is normal procedure, her home was likely to be searched. He took the court through a detailed timeline of phone records and CCTV footage of alleged attempts to conceal laptop computers and documents from the police carried out by Rebekah and Charles Brooks in conjunction with Hanna and others, an operation which he said was codenamed by the participants "Operation Blackhawk".

Various text messages were read to the jury, including one which said "the chicken is in the pot", which Edis claimed was code for "the coast is clear", and another which opened "Broadsword to Danny Boy", a quote from Richard Burton in the war film "Where Eagles Dare".

If it were not for the accidental discovery of the laptop and documents by a cleaner while they were hidden behind a bin in a multistory car park, Edis told the jury, this "risky and complicated exercise" may well have succeded and why, he asked, would it be rational to carry it out if the accused had nothing to hide?

The trial at the Old Bailey continues.

Find more posts from The Drum's daily trial coverage here

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