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Phone-hacking trial: 'They didn't need to arrest me,' Rebekah Brooks tells court

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: Rebekah Brooks

  • Mulcaire was used to track down "Bulger killers"
  • Brooks contacted Ross Kemp to talk about phone-hacking
  • "I didn't think they needed to arrest me," defendant tells court
  • "Don't believe everything you read on Twitter," judge jokes to witness
  • When court resumed after the lunch interval, Andrew Edis QC, lead prosecution counsel, continued his cross-examination of defendant Rebekah Brooks on her knowledge of phone-hacking during her time as editor of the now defunct News of the World and the Sun. He began by showing the witness notes seized from convicted phone-hacker Glenn Mulcaire listing suspected paedophiles being investigated by the News of the World. Edis asked the witness if she knew Mulcaire had been involved in this subject, which given her campaign for Sarah's Law was "close to her heart". Brooks replied: "I didn't know, no." However, the defendant agreed that she was aware that both papers used private investigators to locate people.

    Brooks was asked about her paper's interest in the murderers of toddler Jamie Bulger, who had been released from prison in 2001 with a lifetime injunction against all media not to identify them. The court was shown an agreement between Mulcaire and the News of the World to pay £7,500 for information on the "Bulger killers". In an email, Brooks complained about the payment as "everybody had" the story. Edis asked the witness: "Did you make an inquiry about who you had paid £7,500 for a story everyone had?" Brooks said: "He may have told me it was one of his contacts. I'm complaining not about the payment as such but the fact it was a non-exclusive."

    Edis asked Brooks if she was willing to use "all available means" to get stories about the murderers. "All of Fleet St was interested," Brooks said, "but there were restrictions on how you could investigate the story, there had to be a breach of bail conditions but you could not identify them or their whereabouts."

    Edis then asked the witness: "What did you think of phone-hacking in 2001/2002? Did you approve or disapprove of it?" Brooks replied that she disapproved of it and would only have published a story based on hacking "if it was overwhelmingly in the public interest". The defendant agreed that she had known in the late 1990s that hacking was possible and there were rumours that some journalists were using the technique, "but I never saw any evidence of a journalist of mine phone-hacking for a story," she added. Edis asked if Brooks took any actions to prevent her journalists accessing people's voicemails. "My newsroom was a clean ship, I never saw any phone-hacking." Brooks also denied suggestions that she "had a laugh" about hacking with former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan at a birthday party because she was working on a story about the Hutton report which had been leaked to the paper that day. The defendant agreed that she and Morgan had "heated exchanges" about the Sun having the Hutton exclusive. Brooks also said that the evidence of Eimear Cook that they had discussed a story about Paul McCartney as being sourced from a voicemail during a lunch in 2005 was incorrect. Brooks did agree though that in 2005 she was not aware phone-hacking was illegal.

    Brooks was then given a folder containing her statements to police before the trial, in which she told them she was on holiday when the Milly Dowler voicemail was published. "How did you establish that?" Edis asked. The defendant said she had checked her desk diary and her credit card statements after the Guardian published the original piece about Dowler's phone being hacked. Edis asked if her desk diaries were useful to her. "I consulted them from time to time," Brooks agreed.

    The prosecution then showed Brooks emails taken from her Blackberry. On 23 June 2011 the defendant emailed her ex-husband, Ross Kemp, saying: "We need to talk about phone-hacking," before emailing her PA, Cheryl Carter, asking her to look out the desk diaries. Edis asked why Brooks was looking for her diaries at that particular time. the witness said she knew that a Channel 4 Dispatches programme had been asking about the date of a meeting and she needed her diaries to check, or that it may have been due to her lawyers asking her to confirm the date of a trip she had taken in December 2002. Edis asked "what was on your mind about phone-hacking?" and asked why she wanted to speak to Kemp. Brooks said she was planning on telling him that his name had appeared in Mulcaire's notes. "You'd known that for years," Edis said. Brooks replied that in 2006 "things were pretty strained between us" and she may not have told him. Edis put it to Brooks that she wanted to talk to Kemp to establish that she had been in Dubai when Dowler's phone was hacked. "I didn't know her phone had been hacked until July 2011," Brooks replied. "Lets move on," the prosecutor responded.

    Edis then suggested to Brooks that she had already said that she would allow reporters to "commit crimes to get stories in the public interest and as you didn't think phone-hacking was a crime you would need less persuading to let someone do it". The defendant replied that she had never sanctioned phone-hacking under her editorship. The prosecutor responded: "Mulcaire was following your agenda, with your journalists, with your money, and you say all this was hidden from you?" Brooks said again that she did not know Mulcaire's name. The Judge, Justice Saunders, then intervened to ask the witness about a part of her statement about Max Clifford asking: "What's not there is that the reason you settled with him was to stop Mulcaire naming people who were involved in phone-hacking, was this damage limitation?"

    "Exactly," replied Brooks, adding that she did not know why she had not mentioned that in the statement.

    The prosecution then asked about the 2002/2003 hacking of Fire Brigades Union leader Andy Gilchrist. Brooks was asked if she was interested in Gilchrist's private life. "I was interested in stories, not particularly his private life," the witness responded. Edis asked the witness about a front page in the Sun about a four-year-old affair the FBU leader had been involved in and suggested that the article was aimed at undermining his political position. "It was a good story," Brooks replied, adding that she could not be sure of what the original source was. Asked about Dan Evans' testimony, Brooks said she was not in court but had read about it on Twitter. "Don't believe everything you read on Twitter," Judge Saunders said, which led to laughter in court.

    Andrew Edis then told the jury he had finished with count one of the indictment, conspiracy to intercept voicemails, and would now be moving on to the charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

    The court was then shown emails between Matthew Anderson and Brooks from December 2010 about the suspension of a journalist in relation to phone-hacking. Before court could proceed, however, Timothy Langdale, QC for Andy Coulson, rose to bring up a legal matter and members of the jury were asked to leave the court. When they returned, Edis asked if the discussion was about whether to suspend the journalist or announce the suspension. Brooks replied that she believed the journalist had already been suspended, the email discussion was about the announcement. The prosecution QC asked if this was a sign that News International's original "rogue reporter" defence to the hacking charges had been abandoned. Brooks agreed that it had, to be replaced by a public "zero tolerance policy".

    Brooks told the court she met Andy Coulson in January 2011 to tell him about the latest information in the phone-hacking case. Asked if this was why Coulson resigned from Downing Street a few days later, the defendant said that "he had already made up his mind before we met". The defendant was then asked when she became aware that the police might be interested in her. Brooks said she thought it was around March 2011 when a senior police officer, Sue Akers, asked for her to be prevented from attending News International meetings about phone-hacking - the "confidentiality club" as she called it.

    The prosecution then moved on to a statement made by Brooks on 4 July 2011, when the Dowler story first broke in the Guardian. The statement said that News International "would co-operate with police whenever we are asked". Brooks was asked about a letter she wrote the next day to Surrey police asking who from News International had contacted them over Dowler's voicemails. "If you were in the dark about this, why did you ask them?" the prosecutor asked. Brooks said she was reacting to a statement made by a lawyer, Mark Lewis, that Surrey police had been aware that Dowler's phone had been hacked.

    Edis returned to Brooks' statement that she would co-operate with police and asked why, if this was her intention, she remained silent when interviewed by them. Brooks said this was in accordance with her legal advice. "You're not the kind of person to stay silent just because a lawyer tells you," the prosecutor suggested. "It's up to you if you want to answer questions, not anyone else," he said, adding: "You were aware they wanted to speak to you for months and since the 4th July you had been thinking about the phone-hacking of Milly Dowler."

    The defendant replied: "It was not unfair that police asked me questions, but I took the legal advice on the basis that I didn't know what was happening, I was shocked, and I did give a prepared statement." Brooks added: "I didn't think they needed to arrest me." Edis suggested that the defendant had been given notice that she was going to be questioned and knew what she was going to be asked about. "It was entirely fair for the police to ask you questions," he told the court. "You promised repeatedly to co-operate with the inquiry but when given the opportunity you didn't."

    "Circumstances change," Brooks replied.

    The jury was then shown an email "plan b" which Edis suggested showed that Brooks was "desperately fighting to keep her job". The defendant told the court her "bosses were keen that I stay on to oversee the closure of the News of the World" and "for me personally the allegations about Milly Dowler were the most traumatic, but the big concern for the company was the Harbottle and Lewis files".

    "Was the plan to blame it all on Les [Hinton]?" the Crown barrister asked. "There was a big concern that anyone mentioned in that file should leave the company," Brooks replied.

    The 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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