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Phone-hacking trial: Brooks wanted 'clean sweep' of emails, 'Mulcaire paid for 6 months after arrest'

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.

Stuart Kuttner

After a morning taken up with legal argument, the jury took their seats to hear the prosecution continue their case against former News of the World (NotW) managing editor Stuart Kuttner. The Crown allege that, in conjunction with others, he conspired to illegally intercept voicemails and incite misconduct in public officials. Mr Kuttner himself was not in court today due to ill-health.

Mark Bryant-Heron QC, for the prosecution, introduced to the jury a large folder of documents relating to Kuttner. The first was an email from Kuttner in 2001 complaining that the paper’s news desk was spending £167,000 per annum on “investigation costs” and demanding this be reduced; another email puts the cost of outside contributors at £265,189; a third demands that regular contributors have tax and national insurance deducted from their payments.

Further emails from Kuttner were then entered into evidence. In these he is demanding cuts to the newsdesk budget. One shown to the court proposed cancelling the News of the World Christmas party which was budgeted for £40,000; others discuss job losses “due to the economic climate". The prosecution noted to the jury that these demands for cuts occurred at the same time as the paper signed a £90,000 per annum contract with convicted phone hacker Glenn Mulcaire. Kuttner’s financial oversight at this time even extended to approving the purchase of a new laptop for the paper’s news editor.

The court was then shown a letter from Surrey police from 2005 sent to Andy Coulson complaining about the conduct of a News of the World reporter. The reply comes from Kuttner saying he has “fully investigated the matter” and that the journalist had “acted in a professional manner”. It goes on that the paper had offered to assist in this inquiry, “exactly as I did personally in the Milly Dowler case". An exchange of letters leading up to Kuttner’s departure from the News of the World in May 2009 was then shown to the jury.

The prosecution then had extracts from Kuttner’s notebooks from 2002 referring to the Milly Dowler case. The first has the words “something developing” and has the email address and contact numbers of Surrey police’s press office and the name of the deputy chief constable of the force. The next note, heavily redacted, is a list of bullet points, one saying “new pic of Milly".

Court was then shown an email, already discussed in court, where Kuttner asks the deputy chief constable a number of questions about the progress of the Milly Dowler investigation. Another email, this time to the Surrey police press office from Kuttner, quotes messages left on Milly Dowler’s voicemail and queries what the police are doing to investigate them. Another mail to Surrey police is an offer of a reward for information from the newspaper. A further email from a NotW journalist to Kuttner complains: “Surrey police won’t listen to our ideas". The prosecution then ended this portion of evidence and as none of the defence teams wished to cross-examine or challenge the evidence, Judge Saunders gave the jury a short break.

When court resumed the prosecution then moved on to a section about “the treatment of emails of News International”, telling the jury over 93 million emails from the company had been recovered by police. This did not represent all emails sent or received as before 2005 none were archived and they could be deleted by the user. Even after that date users could “opt out” of having their emails stored. Further emails were “purged” in 2010 leading to the loss of over a million emails. A company called Capex was also instructed to delete emails in September 2010 which led to another four million emails being lost. In total, of all the emails sent between September 2007 and August 2010, over five million messages are irrecoverable. The jury was then read a document on the company email archive policy from 2010 which includes the proposal that “emails that could be unhelpful in legal terms or the subject of litigation” should be purged from the system.

A May 2010 email from Rebekah Brooks, then CEO of News International, to the IT department was then shown to the court asking “what happens to my emails after deletion?" The reply tells Brooks that unless they are saved in a folder they would be lost forever. Further proposals on archiving emails were read to the court to which Brooks replies “John, how come we still haven't done the email deletion policy?” IT reply that they are awaiting installation of new software due when the company moved offices later in the year. On 4 August 2010, Brooks asks IT if staff had been informed that every email before January 2010 would be deleted if not saved. They reply they have been but are worried that if word of the new policy leaked out it could be “misconstrued". They then query why the date of deletion has been moved from January 2007 to January 2010. Brooks replies: “Yes to 2010, Clean sweep.”

In October 2010 Brooks emails IT again asking about the email deletion policy. The court was then shown a letter, dated November 2010, from News International’s chief legal officer to Brooks and the IT department stating “given current interest in the voice interception matter all voicemails from 2005 and 2006 should be kept until further notice”. He then names Andy Coulson, Ian Edmondson, Clive Goodman, Tom Crone, Dan Evans and Brooks herself as people whose emails should be “preserved until further notice". On 11 January 2010 a company named “Essential Computing” was contracted by NI management to secure the archived emails of 105 users including those named above and all emails to and from Glenn Mulcaire were extracted and the files were copied on to a laptop. Essential computing was then instructed to delete the email files from the servers so destroying the source material.

Judge Saunders then told the jury that “if you are following this you are doing better than me”, but assured the jury that the relevance of this information would be clarified in the fullness of time. The court then moved to another set of documents, and detective sergeant Neil Guest was called to the stand. The officer was shown a payment schedule from the NotW containing payments to “Euro-Research and Information ltd” or “9 consultancy ltd” which he confirmed were both companies owned by phone hacker Glenn Mulcaire; the payments were mostly authorised by managing editor Stuart Kuttner or people in his office. They payments were usually of £2019 per week although there are occasional additional payments of an additional £500. In March 2006 though this changes and the payments are split into four and are authorised by Ian Edmondson. These payments continue even after Glenn Mulcaire is arrested for phone hacking in August 2006 and continued until January 2007.

Further detailed financial documents were then read into evidence. A contract from 2001 between Mulcaire and NI relating to “Project Emily” and “Project Alex” were noted; this the officer said related to the killers of James Bulger, a Merseyside toddler murdered in 1993. Court then adjourned for the day

Justice Saunders told the jury the court would reconvene at 11.30 tomorrow.

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

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