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Phone-hacking trial: PA tells court Brooks rarely used notebooks

By James Doleman |

January 9, 2014 | 7 min read

Trial reaches day 40

  • Witness: Boxes packed and retrieved without Brooks' knowledge
  • Sun editor did not "habitually" use notebooks

Day 40 of the trial opened with Jonathan Laidlaw QC cross-examining Rebekah Brooks' former personal assistant, Deborah Keegan, on her testimony yesterday.

The defence counsel asked the witness how she came to meet his client and Keegan told the court it was in 1995 when Brooks was appointed as deputy editor of the Sun and worked for her until Brooks' resignation in 2011.

Laidlaw then asked how often the witness had archived documents for Brooks, to which she replied only three or four times as it was not a "regular occurrence". Turning to when the boxes in question were filled and sent to the archive, the witness confirmed that she and Cheryl Carter had come into work on a Sunday in September 2009, and placed various notebooks and correspondence into containers for archiving. The motive, Keegan told the court, was to save space as "files were falling over the floor" and Brooks was due to move to a smaller office.

Justice Saunders then intervened and asked Laidlaw if he would mind him asking a few questions. The QC replied, "I wouldn't dream of stopping you even if i did mind," which led to laughter in court. The judge asked Keegan if she was sorting material of historical interest. The witness said she was not, instead just trying to reduce the volume of documents before they moved to the less roomy corporate offices; "deep carpet land" as Laidlaw described it. Keegan agreed that the choice of documents to be stored "had nothing to do with Mrs Brooks" and she was not present or told the archiving was taking place. "It was our business, there was no need for her to know," the witness told the court.

Laidlaw then moved on to the seven boxes being retrieved from the archive in July 2011 and asked the witness if Brooks knew they had been brought back to News International. Keegan replied that, to her knowledge, she did not. The defence QC then showed the court an A5 "reporter's notebook" and A4 writing pad and suggested that Brooks did not use either type "habitually" or use either type every day. Keegan replied that Brooks did use notebooks but not regularly and would sometimes just write two or three lines in one before disposing of it.

The defence QC then turned to his client's use of diaries. Laidlaw suggested that when being driven to work Brooks would read all of the daily newspapers and mark up or tear stories out of them. These would then be kept for the daily 11 am conference when the next edition of the paper would be planned. There would also be single pages of paper headed "KRM" for Rupert Murdoch or "LH" for Les Hinton. These, rather than notebooks, the barrister suggested were how Brooks organised her working day and these "jottings" were not filed but thrown out after a couple of days. This practice continued, Laidlaw suggested, until 2009 when Brooks became CEO of News International when, at the suggestion of James Murdoch, she did keep leather bound book of daily notes.

Laidlaw then moved on to Brooks' character as a boss. He asked the witness to confirm that she could be "bad tempered" but had a "softer side" and could show "great kindness and great care for her employees". The witness agreed that the Sun's offices were a tough environment, "challenging but satisfying... a love hate relationship". Laidlaw then had the witness confirm that Brooks visited troops in Afghanistan, worked with Bernardos, campaigned for children's rights and had all News International staff volunteer for charity work. Laidlaw suggested that all of this work in addition to her role as CEO made it impossible for Brooks to have a personal life which is why she required two personal assistants. "She did not have time to go shopping," the QC told the court.

Laidlaw then asked Keegan about Brooks' mobile phone and suggested that she always used a Blackberry and while she upgraded handsets always kept the same number. Charlie Brooks was also provided with News International IT equipment, a phone and a laptop. Mr Brooks, the witness confirmed, lost these "more often than you would expect". Keegan also confirmed that Brooks had only one email address, her News international one.

Andrew Edis for the prosecution then re-examined the witness. He asked about Keegan's contacts with Cheryl Carter after she had made her statements to the police. The witness said they had met five or six times but not on a "one to one" basis as there would always be someone else present and she was "given the green light" by News UK's lawyers. Edis asked that, as Keegan was a prosecution witness and Carter a defendant, had she asked the police or the Crown Prosecution Service if this was a "good idea". The witness replied she had not as they were "casual" lunches and she had just wanted to see her friend. They had also exchanged text messages and emails Keegan told the court. They had not however, the witness said, discussed this case or her evidence.

The prosecution barrister then had a letter from July 2009 requesting information about phone hacking from the Press Complaints Commission which is addressed to Brooks as the "chief executive designate of News International". Keegan confirmed she had known for around two months before the formal appointment that Brooks would be moving to that role. Edis then asked why, if the boxes in question were packed on a Sunday, were they not archived until the next Wednesday. The witness replied that she could not recall.

Edis then had the witness look at a set of emails the jury saw yesterday headed "Rebekah boot camp." Keegan was asked if at this time she was gathering information on Brooks' location in 2002 when the Milly Dowler "voicemail" story was printed. The witness told the court that she had contacted Brooks' bank but they were unable to provide copies of bank statements from that period. Asked about Brooks' desk diaries, the witness said as far as she knew these were never archived but kept in a cupboard. She did remember being asked asked to find the 2002 diary but could not recall if it had been located.

The jury was then asked to leave the court while a legal matter was dealt with which took us up to the lunch break.

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