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Phone-hacking trial : Rebekah Brooks' defence branded a 'script with no relation to truth' as cross-examination concludes

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.

Accused: Brooks' personal assistant Cheryl Carter

  • News International "climate of paranoia" over leaks
  • Peter Mandelson approached to "coach" Brooks over parliamentary appearance
  • Tony Blair was texting former editor the day before she was arrested
  • Husband hiding devices from police "pretty stupid", defendant tells court
  • "Unseemly wrangling" between defence and prosecution counsel
  • Brooks' evidence a "carefully prepared script", prosecution allege
  • After a short delay while legal matters were discussed, the jury in the phone-hacking trial took their seats to hear the last day of prosecution cross-examination of former News International CEO on the final charges she faces: two counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The Crown alleges that Brooks, and others, concealed evidence from police officers during Operation Weeting, the original investigation into the illegal interception of mobile phone voicemails by employees of the now defunct News of the World.

    Andrew Edis QC, lead prosecution counsel, opened proceedings by asking Brooks about an email she sent in July 2011 called "Plan B", a proposal for News International to order an internal report over the growing phone-hacking scandal. Part of the email suggested that once the report was completed it should be "leaked" to the media. Brooks told the court "there was a climate of paranoia" and this would be, for once "a good leak". Edis suggested to the defendant that the point of the inquiry was to produce a report "that would exonerate you so you could keep your job". Brooks replied that she had already offered to resign but "my bosses didn't want me to" and her main aim was to find as "many jobs as possible" for staff from the now closed News of the World.

    The prosecution barrister suggested to the defendant that she had met Rupert Murdoch on 10 July and her future as CEO of News International was "in the balance". Brooks told the court that it was a "grim situation" and she did not think she had much of a future in her current role. "So the answer to my question is yes," Edis said. The court was then shown an email, from Brooks to James Murdoch, where she informed him: "I've just spent an hour on the phone to Tony Blair, who suggested a Hutton style report." The defendant said they had already hired Lord MacDonald, a former director of public prosecutions, to advise the company about what information they should give to the police, so she was considering asking him to conduct the internal probe.

    Counsel then moved on to 13 July 2011 when Brooks went to an Oxfordshire farm to be briefed on her forthcoming appearance before parliament. In an email, Brooks suggested asking former Labour cabinet minister Peter Mandelson to assist her in preparing for the select committee, but, she told the court, "the situation changed" and later that week Brooks resigned from the company.

    The defendant was then asked about the role of her personal assistant, and co-defendant, Cheryl Carter in gathering up her personal papers and delivering them to her home. "Did you know that if you were arrested the police would have a right to search your home?" Edis asked, and questioned why her papers had at one point been stored in Carter's mother in law's garage. "Not the sort of place you would expect to find them," Justice Saunders remarked. Brooks told the court she had not been aware at the time that her documentation had been in the garage.

    The prosecution barrister asked Brooks if she stored used notebooks in the News International "archive". "I never used the archive," Brooks replied, but agreed that her PA may have stored items there, although "I didn't know that at the time," she added. The defendant was then shown a "records transfer list" from September 2009 which listed various items to be archived from her office including "all notebooks from Brooks nee Wade". The prosecution case, Edis said, was that "this was an honest document and accurately described what was in the boxes sent to the archive, what do you say to that?" Brooks replied that it was not her "system" to use notebooks as "I'd not been a journalist since 1995".

    Edis told the court that in October 2009 a temporary employee, Phillipa Bishop, had been given the job of packing up her office when she moved from being editor of the Sun to CEO of News International. Brooks said: "I never got involved in the detail," as it was the job of her personal assistants to arrange the move. "Didn't they ask you?" the prosecutor suggested. "Didn't you give them instructions about what to keep, what to archive what to throw out? You were the boss."

    "They'd been with me for years, they knew what I needed," the defendant replied.

    The prosecutor told the court that the seven boxes placed in the archive in 2009 were removed on 8 July 2011. "You knew by then you were going to be arrested," Edis said to Brooks. "I don't remember particularly thinking of that that day," she replied. "The police were in the building that day," Edis suggested. "The police were in the building on a lot of days," the defendant replied, but agreed she had already discussed using "entry and exit teams" to keep the media away in case of a police "dawn raid" with head of security Mark Hanna. "I think I knew that the police would want to talk to me," the defendant told the court.

    The prosecutor suggested to the witness that given the police investigation she would have been "pretty horrified to find out Cheryl Carter was removing boxes labelled Brooks' notebooks" from the archive unless she had been told to by the defendant. "I didn't know about it," Brooks insisted. "Cheryl Carter was working for you that day, doing what you told her to do," Edis suggested, "and it was a very busy day," he added. "It was a terrible day," Brooks replied, as she had just "made 158 people redundant" and there was a "lot of anger" in the building. The barrister asked Brooks if Carter had informed her about the contents of a statement she gave to police about these events in October 2011. "She said they were very nice," the witness replied, "but she was a bit vague," she added. "Was that the first time you heard about the existence of these boxes?" Edis asked. "Yes," replied Brooks, but she went on to tell the court that Carter had not informed her at the time that the boxes were labelled "Wade/Brooks notebooks". Brooks told the court that as far as she knew the boxes contained Carter's own property. Edis replied: "Well that's her story, but that's just rubbish."

    Brooks was then asked when she found out the boxes in question had her name on them. "That's a pretty serious piece of information, pretty bad news for you," Edis said. The defendant told the court that she could not recall exactly. "I was more concerned for Cheryl than the boxes, I didn't think for one second it would be as serious as it turned out to be," Brooks said. The defendant was asked if she met Carter two days after the boxes were removed, on 10 July. The defendant told the court that Carter drove to her Oxfordshire home that day to look after Brooks' mother, who was very upset, but they did not meet each other as she was not at the house that day. "Did she bring anything that day?" Edis asked. "I don't know, I wasn't there," Brooks replied. "Did she ever bring you anything to do with your work after you resigned?" the prosecutor asked. "Yes, my filing cabinets," the defendant replied.

    The court then took a short break.

    When the trial resumed, the prosecution moved on to the final charge against Brooks - a further count of perverting the course of justice - relating to events on the day the defendant was first arrested, Sunday 17 July 2011. The defendant told the court she had attended Lewisham police station by appointment, and was arrested in the underground car park when she arrived. Brooks was then shown a set of text messages between the defendant and former Prime Minister Tony Blair from earlier that week in which Blair offered to assist Brooks with her forthcoming appearance at parliament. Brooks replied: "Definitely, but depends on police interview." Blair responded: "Everyone panics in these situations, as long as you have good QC advice."

    The prosecutor put it to Brooks that she had spoken to a number of lawyers in the build up to the police interview. "You were very well placed to answer questions that day," he suggested. "It didn't feel that way," the defendant replied, telling the court she had to change her solicitor on the Friday for "professional reasons". Brooks told the court that the interview took a long time and she just went home to sleep. "Is it your evidence that you didn't know about anything about what Mark Hanna and your husband were up to that weekend, nothing odd?"

    "I don't recall knowing about anything untoward until Charlie told me on Monday," the defendant said about that weekend. "I hadn't slept, hadn't eaten and was nearly passing out," she added.

    The court was then shown CCTV footage from the underground car park at Brooks' London flat. The footage showed Charlie and Rebekah Brooks arriving back at the building on Monday 18 July, Rebakah Brooks was seen standing by the door of the car while her husband moved out of shot with another man. After around thirty seconds he returned and they both entered the lift. Edis told the court that they had gone behind some bins but had not found a bag previously left there as it had been taken away by a cleaner. "What did they say?" Edis asked. "I just don't remember, all I wanted to do was go home and go to bed," Brooks replied. The prosecutor said that if they had lost some computers they had hidden there "surely they would have discussed it", and suggested "it was the sort of crisis Mr Brooks would have told you about as soon as it happened". "I think he was trying not to tell me until he tried to sort it out," Brooks responded. Edis suggested that items were removed from the house in Oxfordshire, taken to Wapping and then hidden behind the bins.

    Brooks told the court that what her husband had done was "pretty stupid" but his motive was only to hide his "personal stuff". Edis asked if the defendant was saying his motive was to "hide the stuff to keep it away from the police". Judge Saunders said: "It must be painfully obvious to you he was hiding things from the police."

    "I thought it was impulsive and a really stupid thing to do," she said. The prosecutor asked: "Why do you say impulsive? It looks rather carefully planned rather than impulsive."

    "He didn't want the police to get his stuff," the defendant replied. "You didn't want them to get your stuff," the Crown barrister suggested.

    The prosecution then showed the jury a list of electronic devices they say are missing. Highlighting an iPad on the list, Edis asked: "Where is that?"

    "I assume it is at News International," Brooks replied. "Why do you assume that?" the barrister probed. The defendant was asked about another "missing device", an iPhone. "Where is that?" Edis asked. "It must be at News International, I haven't got it," Brooks replied. The prosecution QC pointed out that there was a record that this iPhone had been connected to the internet router at Brooks' home. "It was a live device." Brooks said she believed it was with News International. "Did you give it back to them?" the prosecution QC asked. "I must have done," the defendant replied. Brooks' defence QC, Jonathan Laidlaw, then intervened to object to the line of questioning. Edis asked if the jury could leave the court to avoid "this unseemly wrangling" in front of them.

    When the jury returned, Andrew Edis QC asked if Brooks' evidence was that all of the eight electronic devices unaccounted for were with News International. "Yes," she replied, adding that the company had a "pretty rubbish audit system". Edis asked if the witness was "still on good terms with senior people at News International". Brooks replied that she "could not remember the last time she spoke to anyone in management at the company". The prosecution lawyer said: "The purpose of that weekend's activities was to conceal evidence from the police and you were in a position to control all of the people involved. Over that weekend you were still in charge of what happened to your property, were you not?"

    The prosecution barrister suggested to Brooks that she'd had "a meteoric rise in your profession", calling her reaching the editor's chair at such a young age "a pretty stunning achievement", adding: "You must have got the best story, the first story in a really tough world."

    "It's difficult to say that about yourself," the defendant replied. "You didn't much care how you got stories, as long as you got them," Edis said. "That's not true," Brooks replied.

    Edis asked the witness if her evidence was that phone-hacker Glenn Mulcaire was "hidden" from her, and asked what incentive journalists would have for doing that. "I can see no reason why using a private detective would be concealed, but I can see why they would hide phone-hacking from me," she said. The prosecutor asked if there was any benefit for managing editor Stuart Kuttner in hiding payments from her. "Nobody would do that without telling the boss," he said. "At no point at any of my editorship did anyone ask me to run a story that was sourced from phone-hacking, it didn't happen," Brooks replied.

    The Crown barrister then asked the witness if she was saying she was "let down over payments to public officials, the missing boxes were Cheryl Carter's doing and hiding the devices was your husband's decision?".

    "Yes," replied Brooks.

    Edis put it to the witness: "You were running your world and not much happened that you did not want to happen when you were at the top of the tree," and went on to suggest: "In fact, Mrs Brooks, your evidence has been a carefully prepared script that bears little relation to the truth."

    "No, it isn't," Brooks replied, and at the point the cross-examination concluded.

    Court then rose for lunch.

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