By continuing to use The Drum, I accept the use of cookies as per The Drum's privacy policy

Phone-hacking trial: Rebekah Brooks denies knowing story source was an MOD official

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.

  • Brooks: "Public interest" would "hypothetically" allow her to pay public officials
  • Denies knowing source of stories was MOD official
  • The trial resumed with Rebekah Brooks continuing her testimony on count five of the indictment, conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office. Her defence counsel, Jonathan Laidlaw QC, distributed two bundles of documents to the jury. The first consisted of 11 emails and supporting documentation in which a journalist, who cannot be named for legal reasons, asked Brooks to approve cash payments for a source. These list the amount requested and the article the payment is for. The second contained all of the articles on military matters published by the Sun while Brooks was editor.

    Laidlaw then showed the jury the first article headlined "Captain Boozy gets Boot from Prince William College" and noted that Brooks' diary shows she was attending the Conservative Party conference and not in the office. The witness told the court she would not have seen the article before publication but would have seen it in the paper. Brooks also said it was not clear from the article that the source was a public official. "It could have been the bus driver," she told the court. The QC then asked Brooks if she thought the story was in the "public interest". The witness said she thought it was as it touched on the bullying of recruits and despite the headline it had a serious point. Asked if she would have paid for the story knowing it came from a public official, Brooks replied "probably not".

    The next article was headlined "Girl spy dies in Iraq blast". Brooks' diary, the court was told, shows she was in Australia, leading Justice Saunders to joke "you were never there!" Brooks was asked again if the story appeared to have been sourced by a public official. The witness replied: "It could have been a steer or from someone embedded with the marines in Basra." On public interest, Brooks said the Sun "was keen to highlight the role of women in the military" but she would not have sanctioned a payment on that basis. "It would have came out anyway."

    A further story, "Recruit speared by instructor's baton," was in the public interest Brooks said as it was about bullying in the army. Asked if, hypothetically, she would have authorised a payment to a public official over this article Brooks said she would, with £3000 being a "reasonable" figure. Brooks did authorise the payments, the court was told, but denies knowing that it came from a civil servant.

    The next article in the bundle was headlined "Marry me Amy" about a Sandhurst recruit who had fallen or been pushed out of a window. Brooks said she did not think this story met her public interest test and what not have sanctioned paying a public official for it.

    "Wills Major killed by Taliban" was the next piece shown to the witness about a Major Roberts who died in Afghanistan. Asked if she would have, hypothetically, paid a public official for the story Brooks said as it was "going to come out" anyway she would "probably have not".

    Other stories discussed in court included: "Para hero quits over squaddies treatment"; "Mucky major sex swinger"; "Army laptop nicked as captain has big mac"; "Battle stressed corporal fired for rookie attack"; "Bang out of order"; "Ghurka's throat slit at Sandhurst"; "The high seas, 18 drug sailors held on warship"; "Major feels up private's private's"; "Army gun nut";

    In each case Brooks was asked the same three questions: Did you see it? Is is clear the source is a public official? And was it enough in the public interest that you would, hypothetically, have authorised paying a public official for it? In every case the witness said the source was not clear but only over four did she say paying a public official would have been justified. Brooks also told the court that "we never received one complaint from MOD or anyone in military about source of stories".

    The jury was then shown emails between Brooks and the journalist in which he asks for payments to be made through Thomas Cook wire transfer to his "ace military contact". Brooks replies "fine" and authorises the cost. Asked if she ever questioned the journalist on his source, the witness told the court that the journalist was senior and was a "story machine". "It wasn't policing him," the former editor told the court.

    Court then adjourned for the day

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