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Phone-hacking trial: Max Clifford's deal, no questions asked and the missing emails

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.

Cross-examination: Andrew Edis QC

  • Brooks made no investigations into phone-hacking while CEO of News International
  • Breaking the law can be "justified in the public interest," former editor says
  • Brooks denies involvement in deletion of 4.5 million emails
  • Max Clifford settlement over £1m, court hears
  • Court resumed after lunch with Andrew Edis QC continuing his cross-examination of defendant Rebekah Brooks over her knowledge about the illegal interception of voicemails by employees of the now defunct News of the World. The prosecution barrister opened the afternoon by asking the witness about her offer of a job to Clive Goodman in 2007, just after he had been released from prison for phone-hacking. Edis asked if Brooks did not see a conflict between her public stance against hacking and the job offer. "I didn't see it like that," the witness said. "You were happy to employ him even though he had been involved in hacking the voicemails of the Royal Family?" Edis asked. "I wanted to to stop him making unfounded allegations against the paper," Brooks replied. "To shut him up," Edis suggested.

    The prosecution QC asked Brooks how she knew Goodman's allegations were unfounded and asked if she had spoken to fellow defendant Andy Coulson. Brooks said she had and he and others had assured her there was no truth to Goodman's statements. Edis asked what Brooks knew about News International settling with Goodman. "He had been shut up then?" he asked. Brooks told the jury the terms of the settlement were confidential. "So confidential they didn't tell you?" Edis asked. "I was the editor of the Sun and this was a corporate issue," the witness replied.

    The witness was then shown an article from the Guardian from July 2009. It suggested that the News of the World had paid out £700,000 to Gordon Taylor to settle his civil case against the paper over phone-hacking. The witness agreed she was familiar with the case and she had seen a transcript of Taylor's voicemails later that year. By September 2009, Brooks was CEO of News International, which coincided with a parliamentary select committee on the issue of hacking. The defendant agreed that she spent "quite a lot of time" dealing with the issue. Edis asked Brooks what investigations she had carried out over the Taylor story. Brooks replied: "None," and said the settlement was "done without my knowledge". The defendant was asked if she conducted any investigation into allegations of phone-hacking while she was CEO. "No," she replied, adding: "At the time, this issue had already been done and out there and there wasn't a need for me to do an investigation." Brooks told the court that she led "continued efforts" at News International to ensure journalists stuck by the PCC code on privacy.

    Brooks was asked what efforts had been made to ensure journalists abided by the PCC code. The witness replied: "Up until 2006, most journalists were not aware of the RIPA [regulation of investigatory powers act] which made phone-hacking illegal," and steps had been taken to inform them. Edis said: "You have already said your newspaper's policy was to break the law if it was in the public interest." Brooks replied this was only done "when it was justified". Edis suggested to the witness: "You did not always work within the law," and Brooks replied that the public interest could sometimes justify "technical breaches of the law".

    The prosecution QC then asked Brooks about her policy on reporters using "subterfuge" and cash payments. Brooks said subterfuge was only justified in the public interest, for example to expose criminality, and "there was always pressure to reduce cash payments". The witness told the court that there were a lot of cash payments at the News of the World as the paper had a strong tradition of investigations which cost. Brooks said that for the paper's expose of match fixing in cricket she had approved £125,000 worth of cash payments which was the only way the story could have been stood up.

    Edis then moved on to a new subject, the civil settlement made by News International with Max Clifford. Brooks agreed that part of the reason for the settlement was to stop phone-hacker Glenn Mulcaire naming who he dealt with at the News of the World. The QC asked what Mr Clifford "was going to get out of it". Brooks replied that Clifford would receive £1m over the next three years, £250,000 per annum plus his legal costs. Edis asked why the settlement was so high: "It was a gift, wasn't it?"

    "We got lots of good stories," Brooks replied. Brooks added: "I accept the motive was to stop Mulcaire naming names in the civil case," but insisted "Clifford was a great source of stories, it was a commercial deal". Edis suggested to Brooks: "You needed to stop Mulcaire because you didn't want the truth to come out." The witness replied: "Glenn Mulcaire was an unreliable witness and we were protecting the company." The prosecution QC suggested: "You did know what he could say as you were the editor when he was given his contract, you knew exactly what he was going to say." The defendant replied: "I took the view he was engaged in legitimate private detective work."

    "Who told you that?" Edis asked. "That was my assumption," Brooks replied. "Did you ask anyone what he was doing?" the QC asked. "Not specifically, no," Brooks answered. "We had lots of private detectives working for us," she added.

    Judge Saunders then intervened and asked Brooks: "Once you found out Mulcaire was phone-hacking, did you not ask anyone what he was up to?" Brooks replied: "I know it sounds ridiculous but I had no concerns, no-one at the News of the World knew Mulcaire was hacking phones." Edis responded, "how did you know, you never asked anyone?" and suggested that the defendant did not ask as she "already knew what Mulcaire was doing". Brooks replied, that the "police had all the information and they were the ones that closed the case". "You had your evidence," Edis said, "the emails from the people who hired him, yet you did nothing."

    Edis then moved on to 1 September 2010 when the New York Times published an article suggesting hacking was widespread at the News of the World. The article, Edis told the court, suggested that a journalist had been suspended for alleged hacking, Dan Evans. Brooks was asked why Evans was suspended but did not lose his job until the News of the World closed in July 2011. The QC asked what actions Brooks took over the hacking allegation and she replied that Evans had "been emphatic in his denials but we suspended him anyway pending our own investigation into the matter". Edis suggested that as the company was being sued over the Evans allegations, News International was defending the action "on a totally false basis". Brooks told the court that other executives were carrying out the investigation and she recalled little about it.

    The court then took a short break.

    When the jury returned, lead prosecutor Andrew Edis asked the jury to go back a few pages in their bundle of documents to the Max Clifford civil case. The QC asked if the £1m settlement obliged Clifford to bring in stories. Brooks replied "yes" but confirmed the agreement was never written down. "If he never brought in any stories you wouldn't have been in a very good position," Edis suggested. "He did bring in good stories," Brooks responded. Brooks was asked if any account was kept of what stories Clifford brought to the paper. "It was a commercial deal," the witness insisted. "Why wasn't it written down?" Edis asked. "We didn't write it down so we could keep it separate from the legal agreement," Brooks responded. "It wasn't separate though, was it?" the QC said.

    Prosecution counsel then moved on to Brooks' role on the email deletion policy at News International. He reminded the jury that Brooks had requested that all emails before January 2010 be deleted, asking for a "clean sweep thanks". Brooks agreed that was the case "subject to exceptions" for legal reasons, such as pending litigation. Edis asked the witness if there were any mentions of "specific litigation" rather than just a general point. Brooks said that was a matter for the lawyers and there were "ongoing conversations" about legal issues at all stages. Edis suggested: "So when you say clean sweep you mean not a clean sweep?" Edis then asked about a separate instruction to delete all emails before 2005 which led to 4.5 million being deleted. Brooks said she knew nothing about this and her only role was to ensure there was a "proper retention policy". Edis suggested to the defendant that she was using the email deletion policy as a "good chance to make sure embarrassing emails were lost, but not as many went as you hoped." Brooks responded: "I had no intention of using the email deletion policy for my own purposes."

    Edis then had the witness look at a new folder containing documents relating to budgetary and financial matters at the News of the World. He asked Brooks about payments made to Glenn Mulcaire's company Nine Consultancy and noted there was no "linage" information next to his account. Edis suggested that it was a normal part of the approval process that linage (i.e. how many lines of text in the paper were being paid for) was looked at by department heads or editors. Brooks replied: "Not necessarily," as there were exceptions to that rule such as pictures.

    Jonathan Laidlaw, QC for Brooks, then asked if the jury could leave the court while he raised a legal matter.

    When the jury returned, Edis showed them figures on circulation of the News of the World while Brooks was editor which ranged from 4.3 to four million copies. Revenue from sales was budgeted to be around £93m, falling to £84m in 2002. There was also a shortfall of £16m on what the budget expected the paper to deliver to the whole group. "Not a very happy state of affairs financially speaking," Edis suggested. Brooks responded that compared to the rest of the newspaper industry this was not as bad as it sounded as the paper was still making a substantial profit but agreed that part of the problem was an overspend by the news desk and the investigations department. Edis asked the defendant how much input she had in the budget process. "It was a collective effort," Brooks replied.

    Court then rose for the day

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

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