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Phone-hacking trial: The archivist, the PA and the boxes

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.

When court resumed this afternoon after the holiday break Mr Justice Saunders, the presiding judge, welcomed back the jury and told them it was nice to see them back. Andrew Edis QC, for the prosecution, told the court that they were now moving on to counts six and seven, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, for the the next two weeks then go back to do some "odds and ends" on the other charges. This process, Edis said, would take around three weeks (you can read the charge sheet here). The prosecution then moved to read those parts of the indictment to the jury.

Trial: Cheryl Carter

Jonathan Laidlaw QC then asked if his client, Andrew Coulson, could be excused from sitting in the dock during this part of the trial as he was not implicated in these charges, a request the judge granted. Mr Coulson then left the court leaving only four of the accused in the dock.

The jury was then shown a schedule of events around police operation Sacha). This schedule links events in July 2011, such as phone records, with actions allegedly taken by defendants Rebekah Brooks, then CEO of News International and her personal assistant Cheryl Carter. This shows numerous telephone contacts between the two during the period in which the News of the World, engulfed by the phone-hacking scandal, was closed down and Brooks resigned as CEO.

Nicholas Mays was then called to the stand. Mayes told the court that in 2011 he was the "archivist" at News International. His role, Mays told the jury, was to keep and manage all records held by the organisation, including "hard copies" kept in a facility in Enfield. Mark Bryant-Heron, for the prosecution, then showed the witness a page from his desk diary from Friday 8 July 2011, which contained the name "Cheryl Carter". Mays confirmed he had received a call from Carter that morning which included a request for the return of "Rebekah's notebooks" from the archive. A computerised order document was then shown to the jury which the witness confirmed was produced as a result of Carter's request. A total of seven boxes of notebooks were returned. The jury has already heard that 8 July was one day after the announcement that the News of the World was to be closed down. An entry on the slip added that the notebooks were to be "permanently withdrawn" from the archive.

Bryant-Heron then showed the court an email exchange between Carter and Mays during which Carter asked the archivist to give her an "urgent call" and a few minutes later asked him to "call me asap". Asked if he recalled the telephone call, Mays told the jury that these calls involved a request to speed up the delivery. After a discussion, Cheryl Carter then came to the Enfield archive and picked up the documents personally. The archivist told the court that it was Carter who told him that the notebooks were to be permanently withdrawn.

The witness was then asked about other contact between him and Carter and Mays told the court that he had been in contact over a request by Charlie Brooks to purchase some "company silver" from the News International executive dining room and had asked her to request a cheque for the "trolley" he had received. He had also contacted Carter about other personal material owned by Brooks, such as a signed copy of the Sun and a Help for Heroes medal, which he had been storing on her behalf.

Cheryl Carter's QC, Mr Burke, then rose to cross-examine the witness. Burke queried the comments about the notebooks and suggested to Mays that his testimony was contradictory as Carter had told him that many of the notebooks belonged to her, not Brooks. The witness agreed he had changed the record to that effect. Mays also confirmed that Brooks' notebooks had been deposited in the archive in September 2009 and that, in normal circumstances, documents would be retained for seven years and then the owner would be contacted to see if they wished them to be destroyed or retained. Burke suggested that the documents were archived due to a move of News International's offices from Wapping to Thomas Moore Square which involved a 65 per cent reduction in storage space. The archivist disagreed, saying that this office move did not happen until around a year later.

Mr Burke then suggested to the witness that his client would not have been able to quote identifying numbers for archived documents so may well have asked "for those notebooks we gave to you a year ago". The archivist agreed that this may have been possible. The QC put it to the witness that Carter was only trying to retrieve her own notebooks, not those of Brooks. Mays then pointed to his diary entry which said "return Rebekah's notebooks" which he would not have written, he said, unless that was the request made in the telephone call.

The defence QC then quoted News International's policy on document retention which required staff to not return any data which may be used in litigation. The witness agreed that there was no "hold" order on the notebooks and he had not notified anyone that the boxes had been taken away as this was "entirely within the companies procedures at the time". Even after Brooks arrest, Mays confirmed, no-one from the police or News International had ever asked him to secure documents belonging to her.

The defence then showed the jury an example of the box in question and queried whether pictures shown to the jury made it look "bigger than it was". The witness denied this and stated that the box's dimensions were as he described. Asked if people used the phrase "archive" imprecisely, Mays agreed and said "it was often the same with lawyers", which led to laughter in court. The defence then asked about a framed "JRM" portrait of Brooks which had been stored by him, the archivist agreed that he drew a distinction from items that were "stored" and documents that were "archived".

An email from the witness, read to the jury, stated that he had a number of items in storage for Brooks as well as the boxes of documents in the archive. Burke suggested there was a degree of "confusion" between the portrait and other items which were "stored in the archive" to items that were actually archived. The witness agreed this was possible, adding that he had been chasing the issue up as he was "not prepared to use company paid storage for personal items".

The defence QC then turned to the question of the silver bought by Charles Brooks and the witness confirmed he had met Cheryl Carter on 9 June 2011 to hand over the items before he had received the cheque paying for the items. This, Burke suggested, had led to even more confusion over which items were to be retrieved for the archive and which were not.

Burke then reminded the court that James Murdoch had announced the closure of the News of the World on Thursday 7 July, and showed the court his email to all staff announcing that the paper would cease publishing after that week's issue. The QC suggested that this led to a flurry of activity among staff trying to secure historical documents to use in that week's final issue. The witness disagreed and said he was aware of only one such request and denied he had only rushed through the notebook delivery as it was going to the same place as the urgent material. The witness said that the defence barrister was "combining two separate issues" and rejected suggestions that he had not spoken to Carter before changing the order status.

The defence QC again put it to the witness that his client had made no request to speed up her delivery and this had been done by him as to combine this order with the urgent order because it made "logistical sense". Mays replied: "I don't know why you don't see this," adding that he would only have hurried Carter's delivery if he had been asked to, otherwise he would have "left it until Monday morning". The defence reminded the jury that Carter had finally come to his office personally and asked if he could recall who was with her.

Mays said he remembered one man being with Carter but denied knowing that the man was Carter's son. Burke asked if the witness was aware that Carter also had a beauty column in the News of the World called "ask Cheryl" and had emailed him on the Monday after getting the boxes saying that she had been "reading seven years of beauty articles, how time flies". The witness told the court he had not been aware of that fact.

The court then adjourned for the day. The trial continues.

View more posts from The Drum phone-hacking trial coverage here

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