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Phone-hacking trial: Max Clifford, the Royal book and tidying up

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.

Trial: The Old Bailey in London
  • Prosecution continues "tidying up exercise"
  • Brooks asked Sunday Times to drop story during Max Clifford civil suit
  • Police have no evidence of any "legitimate work" done by Mulcaire

Court resumed this afternoon to hear more from the prosecution whose case, we heard this morning, is due to conclude tomorrow. As is usual in complex cases such as this the jury will be excused for a period while legal matters relating to the forthcoming defence case are settled.

Andrew Edis QC resumed by presenting further documents relating to Max Clifford's civil action against the News of the World for phone-hacking. The first was a note of a 2010 meeting about the agreement between Max Clifford and the paper to agree to give him £200,000 per annum worth of work to accept a settlement in the case. It was agreed to not put this in writing. "Max will just have to take Rebekah's word for it," it said. The jury was then shown a report on a hearing about this civil case. This asked for a disclosure order against Glenn Mulcaire, the convicted phone-hacker formerly employed by the News of the World, instructing him to name the people who had requested him to hack Clifford's voicemail and who he passed the information on to. After hearing submissions, the judge granted the order.

The jury was then shown an email which showed that a settlement had been agreed between Rebekah Brooks and Clifford subject to costs, which totalled £200k. A further email between Brooks read: "Martin a tricky one but can you do me a favour, he is kicking up a fuss about a story.. these are slippery fish and you may have him bang to rights, but another legal would be a nightmare." The Sunday Times journalist replied: "The story is minor league," and agreed to drop it.

The prosecution then brought into evidence emails between Rebekah Brooks and others as the phone-hacking scandal grew in December 2010. In one, Brooks was asked: "What do we gain from waiting for Sheridan?" Brooks replied: "It's crazy that Sheridan was not mentioned," adding: "What do we gain from issuing a statement?"

Detective sergeant Guest was then recalled to the stand and, after being reminded he was still under oath, he confirmed that he had carried out a review of items found in Glenn Mulcaire's home upon his arrest in 2006 to ascertain what activities he had undertaken while employed by the News of the World. The officer told the court he had looked for records of "legitimate investigative work" by Mulcaire, such as land registry checks, searches of company director records, surveillance, crime advice or "football knowledge". Guest told the court he had not found any documents or evidence that any of this was ever done by him. There was some evidence that Mulcaire had studied graphology (the study of handwriting) but none that he had ever carried out such work for News International. Neither Mulcaire or any of his companies subscribed to any tracing services or information service companies.

Jonathan Laidlaw, QC for Rebekah Brooks, then rose to cross examine. The officer confirmed he was not involved in the 2006 searches of Mulcaire's home and only looked at what had been retained by the investigation team. Guest told the court he had looked at over seven thousand documents. Laidlaw suggested to the witness that not all of Mulcaire's documentation may have been kept by police, to which Guest replied that was a "fair observation". The defence barrister then told the court that police had none of Mulcaire's telephone records other than those from 2004 onwards. Laidlaw asked if an examination of Mulcaire's computers had shown his internet history from 2000 to 2003 and the officer confirmed they had not.

The detective sergeant was asked then if Mulcaire had been a "tracing agent" at some point. Guest agreed but told the court police had contacted information services companies who had no record of Mulcaire or his companies. The witness was then allowed to leave the stand.

Detective constable Andrea Fletcher then gave evidence. The witness was asked about further investigations she had undertaken about a "feud of the rings" story relating to Paul McCartney and Heather Mills from 16 June 2002; an article that claimed an argument between the couple had led to an engagement ring being thrown out of a hotel window in America. She told the court she had checked contributor payment records and this story was linked to a payment to a Peter Hodgeson. The prosecution asked the officer about a previous story from 2 June 2002 which also referenced the ring incident. Fletcher said she had recovered an email from Rebekah Brooks to other staff on this story which told them to "change story on subhead". There was also a note of a payment of £6,000 for the story on News International records and other smaller payments.

The officer told the court her inquiries had identified who received these and she listed various people and companies who had been paid in relation to the story. The name Shannon Sweeney, a photographer, appeared three times. The name Samantha Edrie also appeared but this person has never been identified.

The detective constable was then asked about inquiries she had undertaken since the trial began about computers recovered from the Brooks' London flat in 2011. A slightly amended schedule of user accounts and log in details was given to the jury to update their evidence folders. Jonathan Laidlaw QC then rose to cross examine the police officer on this evidence. He asked the officer to confirm that forensic analysis on one of these, an HP laptop, showed it had not been used since 2009. The officer agreed that is what the data showed.

The court then took a short break.

On the juries return, the prosecution called their penultimate witness of the day, detective inspector Stephen McCabe. McCabe had previously been asked by Rebekah Brooks' counsel, Jonathan Laidlaw QC, to check the accuracy of a schedule of documents from lawyers Kingsley Napley and find out if they appeared on a filing list of documents filed by Rebekah Brooks' personal assistant, Cheryl Carter. The witness confirmed he'd had junior officers carry this out. Laidlaw rose to question him on the outcome of the inquiry. The detective inspector gave the defence a document with the results of this and Mr Laidlaw sat down

The final witness of the day was detective inspector David Kennett. The officer told the court he was part of Operation Elveden, the police investigation into corruption of public officials, and had been trying to identify who had allegedly sold copies of Royal telephone directories to the News of the World. Kennett told the court he had received a list of all of the police officers on duty at the Royal palaces but not who worked at those where the books went missing. "The records where not robust enough," he told the court, adding that over 60 police officers were working at St James's Palace in 2005. Checks had been run, but there had been "no developments" even after fingerprint checks.

The inspector was then asked about his testimony on another charge, the allegation that Rebekah Brooks conspired to purchase photographs of Prince William in a bikini. Kennet confirmed he had now spoken to an army officer, Major McKay, mentioned in his evidence, and had conducted an interview and taken statements from. Telephone data had then been looked at and an interview under caution of another person had been conducted. The inquiry, the inspector said, was continuing.

David Spens QC, for Clive Goodman, then rose to cross examine the witness. He suggested to the witness that there was no evidence linking police officers to 13 of the 15 directories found at his client's home in 2006. Other than Goodman's fingerprints, 112 unidentified "handmarks" had been found on the books.

Court then rose until 12pm tomorrow

All of the remaining defendants plead not guilty to all of the charges, the trial continues.

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