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Phone-hacking trial: Archives, lists and suspicious cars

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.

Inside the Old Bailey

  • Two witnesses recalled to testify on new documents
  • Judge cross-examines witness personally, jokes out of practice
  • Security staff tell of "suspicious vehicles" on night of Brooks' arrest
  • After a short delay for further legal discussion, the prosecution called its next witness, detective sergeant Phillip Aldry, to testify to the provenance of a "transfer list". The officer told the court that these had only recently been received from News International. These list documents from Brooks' time as editor of the Sun that had been sent to the company archive. A total of 46 boxes were listed

    Mr Burke, QC for Cheryl Carter, then rose to question the witness. He put it to him that if his client had only removed seven boxes from the archives that meant thirty nine were still there. The officer agreed.

    The court then recalled a witness the jury have already heard from, Nick Mayes, an archivist at News International. Mr Justice Saunders apologised to Mays for the inconvenience of bringing him back but explained that "these things happen sometimes". Mays confirmed he had given the transfer list to the police when they requested documents relating to the editor of the Sun's office. Cross-examined by Carter's QC, Mayes told the court he had handed over the document "a considerable time ago" but could not recall the exact date. The defence barrister asked if any of the boxes remaining in the archive had been examined by the police, Mays replied he thought one had been but could not be certain. The witness was then allowed to step down and the jury was asked to leave the court briefly.

    The next witness was another that has already appeared, Deborah Keegan, who along with defendant Cheryl Carter, acted as a personal assistant for Rebekah Brooks during her time at News International (you can read her previous testimony here). Burke opened the re-examination by asking the witness to look at a transfer list from 2009 and asked if it was related to Brooks' move from editor of the Sun to chief executive's office. The witness confirmed it was.

    Andrew Edis for the prosecution then questioned the witness. He asked her why documents from the Sun had been taken to the CEO's office and the witness said "we just took everything with us". The presiding judge, Mr Justice Saunders, then personally took over the examination.

    He began by asking about her previous testimony that the witness and Cheryl Carter had packed up the boxes on a Sunday in late 2009. Keegan confirmed that was her recollection and the packing was done in the new office. Saunders asked who physically moved the documents to the archive, to which the witness said she could not recall but did remember just "bundling items into crates" and said "I just did whatever needed doing at the time". The judge asked the witness "what needed doing at the time", to which Keegan replied she did not remember and Saunders remarked on his cross-examination skills "I'm out of practice."

    The judge then asked the witness to tell the court exactly what she remembered doing. Keegan replied she just recalled sitting in the floor sorting through documents. Saunders asked if the witness had prepared a list for the archive, and Keegan said she could not recall. The witness and jury where then asked to leave the court. When they returned Justice Saunders told them Keegan had completed her evidence and she stepped down from the witness box. The prosecution then called detective sergeant Massey.

    The police officer told the court he had attended Rebekah Brooks' solicitors office in January 2012 to examine documents deposited there. He had compared these to the ones listed on the transfer list and produced a schedule comparing the two. There are, the officer said, a number of items that correlate together appearing both on the list and found at the solicitors office. This included correspondence between Brooks and James and Rupert Murdoch and agendas of business meetings. The transfer list had a file marked "phone hacking" the officer did not recall seeing this at the solicitors office. He did find four notebooks belonging to Brooks which he seized. These have already been shown to the jury.

    Jonathan Laidlaw, QC for Rebekah Brooks, then cross-examined the witness. He presented his own list which links documents' names on a Rebekah Brooks "filing list," prepared while she was CEO, with those found at the solicitors office's or recovered from News International's themselves. Many but not all, can be "reasonably assumed" to correlate with each other the defence counsel told the court. The defence QC then went through the colour coding on the list with those not found highlighted in yellow. The police officer said he would need time to examine the list in full before commenting on it fully. Laidlaw had the officer look at a section called "notebooks" which shows four in the possession of the police and a complete set of desk diaries from 1999 to 2010 that they have also seen.

    Laidlaw then showed the court a reference to a file on "phone hacking" mentioned earlier. He told the court that he believed he could show a "reasonable connection" between that and documents on the list. The officer said he would have to examine the document thouroughly before he could comment. Laidlaw suggested the officer "do his homework" and return later.

    Trevor Burke QC then questioned the officer. He reminded him that his client, Cheryl Carter, had told police that when she had removed the seven boxes of documents on the day of the annoucement that the News of the World was to be closed, she had sorted them and returned those belonging to Brooks. He suggested that Carter must have been telling the truth as there was "no other explanation" for how the diaries had ended up back in News International's offices. DS Massey again said he or a colleague would have to check which would take two or three days.

    The prosecution then showed the jury a map that shows that, two days after the seven boxes were withdrawn from the archive, Cheryl Carter's mobile phone left London and travelled to Oxfordshire where a call was routed through a mobile mast at Chipping Norton. As the jury has already heard Rebekah Brooks' home is in that area. A statement was then read to the court from a Tony Cox, a director of specialised security and counter-surveillance company Corruna Solutions which was sub-contracted by Mark Hanna to work for News International. On 17 July 2011, the day Rebekah Brooks was first arrested, Cox escorted her back from the police station and then "probed the area". He observed two vehicles he believed were acting suspiciously and noted their registration numbers, which he passed on to his line manager.

    Court then adjourned for the day.

    All of the defendants continue to deny the charges against them, the trial continues.

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