Discover client recommended agencies
Digital Summit Festival Banner

Phone-hacking trial hears Brooks emails: 'Think Swan Baby xxx'

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.

Rebekah Brooks

When court resumed after lunch Mark Bryant-Heron, QC for the prosecution, resumed reading into evidence documents relating to the charges of conspiracy to hack phones against defendant Ian Edmondson, former news editor of the News of the World (NotW).

The first document shown this afternoon was an email from private investigator Glenn Mulcaire to Edmondson giving a mobile number, mailbox number and PIN code for Lord Frederick Windsor. This, the court was told, was one of the three emails that led to the launch of Operation Weeting, the police inquiry that has led to this trial. A graphic, already seen by the jury, showed how transcripts of the voicemails of Gordon Taylor, head of the Professional Footballers' Association, allegedly came to be produced and sent to Edmondson.

The next email exchange shown was a discussion between Edmondson and then NotW royal correspondent Clive Goodman in 2005 over how to handle a proposed story relating to Prince Harry and his supposed “cheating” at Sandhurst. The email states, about a line in the story suggesting Harry was drunk at the time of a call to his private secretary: “That's a bit too much knowledge to expose to a wider readership, massively dangerous to the source.”

The next email from Mulcaire to Edmondson was a list of various phone numbers related to the pop star Kerry Katona. An email exchange between Goodman and another NotW journalist, James Weatherup, was then displayed in which Goodman writes: “I’ve got a mobile, going to get Gregg to do a few dark arts.”

Various other emails that have already been discussed were then placed formally into evidence, and this ended the Edmondson part of the timeline. The court then moved on to the Rebekah Brooks section of the document folder.

The first document shown was a letter written by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) sent after Goodman and Mulcaire were convicted of phone hacking in 2006, asking Brooks if she had learned the “right lessons” from the episode. The letter goes on to ask what internal controls had been introduced in reponse. Brooks replied to this letter eight days later stating that she “deplored the type of snooping shown in the Goodman case” and telling the PCC that any journalist who broke the law while working for her was liable to be “instantly dismissed".

The next letter shown, again from the PCC in 2009, asked Brooks for help in preventing parliament making recommendations based on an “unfair analysis” of the prevalence of phone hacking and for her to provide information so it could be shown further restrictions on the press “not necessary”. Brooks replied a few days later assuring the PCC that News International journalists always “work within the law” and “subterfuge was only allowed in stories such as arms dealing or child abuse.

Next came a transcript of a parliamentary committee hearing into phone hacking, quoting Chris Bryant MP criticising the police for not “joining the dots” in their original investigation. An email relating to this from 11 March 2011 from Will Lewis at News International to Charlie Brooks accuses Bryant of being “aggressive” and “making stuff up", adding that the TV programme Panorama investigating the issue had already been "hit by two legal letters”.

A email from April 2011 was then shown to the court titled “mea” which contained a draft statement admitting, on behalf of News International, that “our rogue reporter defence was wrong” and agreeing to an “unreserved apology and admission of liabilty” in some cases. The draft also proposes setting up a “compensation scheme” to compensate civil litigants. Both of these documents were recovered from an Apple Mac computer found by police from Brooks’ London home. Various emails discussing changes to this proposed statement were then shown to the jury including the removal of the reference to a “rogue reporter". This phrase was indeed removed from the final statement.

Judge Saunders then asked the jury if they needed a break, saying “it’s bad enough reading your own emails”. The jury indicated they did not and Bryant-Heron moved on.

The court was then shown an email from Philip Dunne MP from July 2011 to Charlie Brooks attaching a story that Tom Watson had accused the NotW in parliament of “hacking Milly Dowler’s phone”. Charlie Brooks then replies to Dunne calling the story “another attempted hit on Rebekah from Watson” but admitting “we are on the back foot". An email from Rebekah Brooks to Charlie Brooks headed “Re Think Swan Baby x x x” was then displayed which contained a proposed statement written by Rebekah on Milly Dowler. In the statement she calls the story “almost too horrific to believe” and promises to “rigorously investigate” the claims, while stating “it is inconceivable that I knew or worse sanctioned these appalling allegations". The proposed statement ends with Brooks writing “we will do our utmost to see that justice is done and those responsbile are punished".

Various other emails relating to budgets and design proposals at the News of the World were then shown to the court. In one, from 2000, Brooks complains about a decision made in her absence stating “I am always available on mob or email”. In another, telling key staff she was taking a trip to Ireland, she writes: “I’ll be checking in regularly.”

An email from Bob Bird, the Scottish Editor of the NotW asking Brooks for help with a draft article was also mentioned, but not displayed in court.

Court then adjourned for the day. As Justice Saunders has other matters to deal with tomorrow, the jury were told they did not have to return until Monday.

The trial continues.

By continuing to use The Drum, I accept the use of cookies as per The Drum's privacy policy