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Phone-hacking trial: The case for the defence

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.

Court: Defence counsel Timothy Langdale QC

The defence case in the trial of Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and five others does not begin until Monday 17 February. However, through statements made by counsel and lines of cross examination it is possible to see some of the arguments defendants' barristers will take in response to the main charges their clients are facing.

There is no question that the illegal interception of voicemails, "phone-hacking", was carried out by Glenn Mulcaire and that reporters at the News of the World used the results to source stories. To prove a charge of conspiracy, the prosecution will have to prove that their clients were aware of, and agreed to, this illegal activity. In an address to the jury, Timothy Langdale, QC for Coulson, stated that one issue he would be raising was the actual duties of an editor in a national tabloid paper.

Langdale suggested that it is not the job of an editor to check the source of every story. Other senior staff such as heads of department, news editors and lawyers have that responsibility. The editor deals with the commercial side of the business, setting budgets and editorial policy, and taking an overview of each edition. Moreover, journalists are, the defence contend, secretive about sources and it is standard practice in the newspaper industry for them not to be asked to reveal them.

On the email evidence, Langdale described the editor as receiving a "blizzard" of these every day, adding that the fact an email was sent was no proof that it was read fully. On a particular email exchange shown to the jury, in which Coulson told another News of the World employee to "do his phone", the defence has suggested that this was nothing to do with phone-hacking. During cross examination, defence counsel suggested that this was only an instruction to check the company phone bills of a journalist who was suspected of leaking information to celebrity Calum Best. It should also be noted, the defence QC told the jury, that both Coulson and Brooks themselves had their phones hacked by Mulcaire.

Finally, on the financial issue raised by the prosecution that Mulcaire was paid over £100,000 a year and so his role must have been known at a senior level, the defence has contended that budgets were allocated to departments and the editor did not then micro-manage how they were spent. If it was agreed, for example, that the news department needed to spend a particular amount on" investigations", the detail on how that would be spent would be a matter for the department head, not Coulson or Brooks. The defence also cast doubt on the evidence of former News of the World journalist Dan Evans, who claimed he played a recording of a hacked phone call to Coulson on 27 September 2005. Coulson, his counsel stated, was not in his office, or even in London on that date.

This is only a brief outline of what the defence have said so far in this complex case. The procedure is that each defendant presents their case in the order that their names are on the indictment. Therefore Rebekah Brooks will be first, followed by Andy Coulson, Stuart Kuttner, Clive Goodman, Cheryl Carter, Mark Hanna and finally Charlie Brooks. The defence cases are expected to take around three months with the jury expected to retire and reach a verdict around the middle of May.

All of the defendants deny all of the charges, the trial continues

Click here to view more posts from The Drum's phone-hacking trial coverage

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