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Phone-hacking trial: Resignations, panda cars and three sheets to the wind

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.

Evidence: Charlie and Rebekah Brooks with James Murdoch

  • Brooks tells of resignation
  • Ordered out of building by police
  • Charlie "three sheets to the wind" after her arrest
  • Court resumed this afternoon to hear the final part of former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks' evidence in chief in her defence against charges of conspiracy to intercept communications, corrupt public officials and pervert the course of justice. Her counsel, Jonathan Laidlaw QC, resumed taking Brooks through her version of events in July 2011 when revelations that the phone of murdered teenager Milly Dowler had been hacked led to a storm of controversy and the closure of the News of the World. The court heard this morning that Brooks had considered resigning over the matter but had been talked out of it on 10 July by Rupert Murdoch.

    Brooks told the court that the next morning, 11 July, she had been "completely exhausted and not functioning". An email sent by Brooks to James Murdoch said: "Four million sold on Sunday, so much for sales boycott," to which Murdoch replied "why are you on email". Brooks responded by relaying a conversation, already seen by the jury, that she'd had with former Labour prime minister Tony Blair, who was giving her "support". Brooks described the conversation with the former prime minister as "an exchange of ideas".

    By 12 July, Brooks told the court, she was finding it "impossible to go on" and was discussing a leave of absence with senior staff at News International. However, the "boss" Rupert Murdoch had told her she could not take leave as she was due to appear before a parliamentary select committee she had been summoned to attend. "Their was a debate if I should go to the committee, take responsibility and then resign, or resign first and face parliament as former CEO," Brooks told the court. There was also discussion about "rehearsing" for the select committee appearance and Brooks suggested a friend's house in Oxfordshire as a private venue, the jury heard. The defendant said that she had been told the police wished to talk to her before her appearance at parliament and suggested the weekend as a convenient time.

    On Thursday 14 July, Brooks said, the "leave of absence had changed quite quickly into resignation. "Some people felt it was better for the company if I had left before I answered questions... overall most people thought it better that I just left," she said. The defendant then handed in her resignation to Rupert and James Murdoch and it was accepted. Brooks said she wanted the police to be told she had resigned, so she asked for her statement to be sent to them.

    On the morning of Friday 15 July, Brooks told the court, her resignation was announced publicly and she spent the morning "talking to the lawyers and James and Rupert Murdoch". The defendant told the court she then walked around the building saying goodbye to people. She was then was asked to return to her office where James Murdoch and other executives were waiting. There she was told: "The situation has changed, the police want you out of the building immediately, if you don't leave they are going to send a panda car round, you have to be out of the building by mid-day." Brooks told the court she was "surprised" and "did not realise what had changed other than her resignation. Brooks said she was only allowed to take her Blackberry phone with her and even this was disabled to stop it accessing the News International email system. She was then escorted out of the building.

    Brooks told the court that she had arranged to meet the police on Sunday 17 July to be interviewed over the Milly Dowler story. The defendant said she did not expect to be arrested. "At worst I thought I might be interviewed under caution," the court was told. Brooks told the court she did not tell her security much about her plans on Sunday as she did not want people to know what police station she was to visit. "I kept it quiet," she told the court, as she did not want photographers making a "permanent record" of the event. "It seems silly now," Brooks told the court.

    The defence QC asked Brooks about prosecution suggestions that on the journey to the police station documents and papers were "got rid of". The defendant denied this and said all that she had with her was her Blackberry which she later gave to police. She also said there had been no discussion with her husband Charlie about any plans he had to hide papers or equipment. When she arrived at Lewisham police station, Brooks told the court, she was arrested in the underground car park. "It was on the cards," she added. Brooks spent 12 hours at the station being interviewed and, in between, being held in a cell. After her release she returned home where she found her husband Charlie "worse for wear" as he had been stressed and drinking red wine. "He was three sheets to the wind," Brooks said. Charlie Brooks told her that police had attended the house and had "searched the cereal packets" and at one point told him to "take his feet off the bed". Various papers and computer equipment were removed by the officers.

    On Monday 18 July, the court was told, Brooks visited her solicitors and then returned home. Her defence QC asked if Charlie had spoken to her about bags, the defendant said she did not remember anyone speaking about the bags in the car. Brooks was reminded of CCTV footage shown to the jury of Charlie Brooks searching for something behind the bin area while she waited by the car. "I knew there was a mix-up with his bags but I just wanted to go to bed," the defendant told the court.

    Brooks told the court that it was only when she woke up later that afternoon that an "agitated" Charlie Brooks told her he "had given his bags to security and there had been a mix up". He then told her "he had hidden his rather large porn collection" and this had been found by police and he now faced arrest. "I just lost it," Brooks told the court, adding that "it was the final straw in a catastrophic few days". Brooks denied being part of any conspiracy with Charlie to hide evidence from police. "It's not true," she told the jury.

    Brooks' counsel then asked his client about "missing devices". Brooks confirmed she was issued a number of electronic devices at News International and she would go through "four or five Blackberries a year". The defendant was also given a number of iPhones and iPads which she was "not keen on" but needed to see the "apps" News International were developing. "We were in a race with the Guardian and the Telegraph to be first," Brooks said. The defendant told the court she could not say how many devices she was issued with as there was no formal "asset management" system in place at the time. "We were buying iPads on expenses and giving them to advertisers," Brooks said. "There were lots of devices all over the office."

    The defendant was then asked about the police raid on her Oxfordshire home at 4.45am on 13 March 2012. Her daughter Scarlett was only six weeks old at the time and her nanny spotted the police outside. Brooks answered the door and asked the police not to wake her daughter. The police, Brooks said, "ran past and arrested Charlie, it was completely surreal," she told the court. Charlie Brooks, the witness said, was "quite shaken" and after an "emotional conversation" was allowed to call his mother whose home police were planning to search next. Finally Brooks was asked about her police interviews and why she had remained silent during these. The witness replied that this was on legal advice. The court then took a short break.

    When the trial resumed, Jonathan Laidlaw told the court he had now completed his examination in chief, and as per standard legal procedure in English courts, the other defence counsel in the case now had an opportunity to question Brooks. Mr Langdale, for Andy Coulson had no questions. Jonathan Caplan QC, for Stuart Kuttner, then rose to question the witness. Brooks confirmed that she and Kuttner, the former managing editor of the News of the World, were not "personal friends". He was old enough to be your father, Caplan said. Brooks also agreed Kuttner's responsibilities did not involve the content of the paper.

    The witness was then asked about the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) and agreed that one of Kuttner's roles was to liaise with them over complaints against the News of the World. Brooks was then asked about an email she sent to Kuttner over "Sophie Wessex" and an entrapment operation run by the paper to expose her for selling access to the Royal family. Brooks agreed that she wrote to Kuttner to assure him the PCC code was being adhered to under her editorship. Brooks was asked who was responsible for deciding a story was in the "public interest" and she agreed it was primarily the responsibility of the editor. Finally, Caplan asked Brooks about her evidence on private detectives and suggested the News of the World sometimes used them to trace people so they had a "fair opportunity to comment on stories about them". "That's right, yes," the witness replied.

    David Spens, for former Royal correspondent Clive Goodman, then rose to question the witness. The defence counsel asked the witness about her testimony that his client worked for the investigations team and did not attend conferences. Spens suggested that Brooks' memory was incorrect and that Goodman did attend conferences. "He may have attended occasionally," she replied. Spens suggested that in 2001 Brooks promoted Goodman to assistant editor (Royals) and he then became part of the editorial management. Asked if this "rang any bells", Brooks replied: "Not particularly." Spens then showed the witness a 2001 budget document which listed Goodman as part of "editorial management". Brooks said "I just don't remember" and Judge Saunders told the witness if that was her position she should just say so.

    Spens then asked the witness if she worked with Goodman over "one of the News of the World's greatest scoops, Prince Harry's teenage drug-taking". Brooks agreed and said that she had a good professional relationship with Spens' client. The barrister then suggested that between August 2002 and January 2003 Brooks and Goodman were invited to a meeting with Sir Michael Peat, Prince Charles' private secretary, at St James's Palace. The defendant said she had a recollection of the meeting and that one of the topics was the "portrayal of Camilla Parker Bowles" in the News of the World.

    Defence counsel asked the witness about what he called the practice of "source boosting", which he described as journalists "bigging up their sources". Brooks agreed "there was a bit of bravado in journalism" and it happened from "time to time" that a reporter "heard something from their next door neighbour and claimed it came from a confidential source". Brooks added that "it was not sustainable" but agreed sources could be over-exaggerated. Brooks was asked if she had ever "source boosted" and she told the court she had picked up a Royal story she had heard in a book club and told her editor it came from a confidential source. Spens' had the jury look at an email from a Sun journalist, who we cannot name for legal reasons, asking for a £4,000 cash payment for his "very good prison contact" for a story about an Al Qaeda terrorist. Spens told the court that records showed that "in fact the money was paid to a journalist". The barrister asked if this was an example of a journalist boosting his source to his editor, Brooks replied that she did not know who the source was so could not comment further.

    Spens then asked Brooks about a meeting she had with police in September 2006 over the first hacking inquiry, in which she was told, according to a note, that "at this stage the police don't want to widen to other News of the World journos, Clive is only cos he was doing it [hacking] himself". Brooks was asked if the police were limiting their inquiry to cases where a journalist had physically hacked a phone himself. "It was not as clear as that," the witness said and as she "knew that Glenn Mulcaire was working at the News of the World as a private detective, doing tracing work etc, I had no concerns over who might have been tasking him". "No other names were mentioned," Brooks said. The witness was asked if she thought at the time the investigation was "superficial". Brooks replied: "No."

    Court then adjourned for the day

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

    Click here to view more posts from The Drum's daily phone-hacking trial coverage straight from the Old Bailey

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