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Phone-hacking trial: Lost computers, missing computers and drunkenness

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 and friend Jeremy Clarkson, who attended court today

  • Charlie Brooks insists computer equipment belonged to him
  • Refused to answer police questions on legal advice
  • "Drunkenness is your only explanation," prosecutor suggests
  • Court resumed after lunch with lead prosecutor Andrew Edis QC continuing his cross-examination of defendant Charlie Brooks over the single charge he faces, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Brooks has admitted concealing documents and electronic devices from police but has testified these were his property and unconnected to the investigation being conducted into his wife Rebekah Brooks.

    Edis began the afternoon by asking the witness about his relationship with News International head of security Mark Hanna, who he described as a "loyal and trustworthy member of staff". Brooks said he had discussed the possibility with him that his wife might be arrested since April 2011. "When it happened it almost happened by arrangement," Edis suggested. "There was no surprise at all was there?" he said. "No," Brooks replied. "You had plenty of time to make a plan about things you didn't want the police to find," the prosecutor went on.

    On 17 July 2011, the day of Rebekah Brooks' arrest, the witness agreed that Hanna was in charge of the News International security team protecting the couple. Brooks said he did not recall if Hanna knew about the impending request when he agreed to "look after" the defendant's property for the day. "There was no plan to return them," he said. "Did he ask you why you had put your computers behind the bins?" Edis asked. "No, I'd told him it was my personal stuff," Brooks responded.

    The prosecution QC them moved on to the subject of the contents of the bags, particularly the three computers found by the cleaner. Brooks said the computers were his and the two marked News International had been given to him as a "present". "They were my devices with my information on them," he added. Edis asked the witness: "If they were your computers, why did you have to ask someone else for the passwords?" The defendant replied that the devices were always kept on at home so he had never had to use the passwords.

    Edis then asked the witness about his evidence that the computers belonged to him. "They had no connection with Rebekah," the witness said. The prosecutor asked the witness: "That's simply a lie, isn't it?"

    "I don't think your listening to me," Brooks replied. "There was a cock up getting my stuff back from the garage." Brooks said that the next day, he realised his mistake and was willing to speak to the police and explain the "whole truth to them, I would have told them everything". The prosecution then had the jury given an newspaper article from 27 July 2011 which quoted Brooks as saying: "There was mix up with a friend, they had just been accidentally left in the car park and inadvertently left with some rubbish." The defendant said he did not speak to the Telegraph but the couple had employed PR company Bell Pottinger to get their views across, and they had spoken to the press on their behalf. Brooks told the court that in his view the article was mostly correct.

    Edis asked the witness about his previous evidence that he and a friend drank six bottles of wine that night. "Surely you must have noticed the bags had not returned," he said. "I get a little bit sloppy after a couple of bottles of red wine," the defendant replied. The prosecution barrister suggested that the newspaper story was deliberately misleading. "I didn't give them that information, I didn't think they needed it," Brooks replied. "This was information you were desperate to give to the police, and no doubt the police read the Telegraph," Edis said. "Perhaps they don't, but I wanted to tell them face to face," Brooks replied, but agreed that when he was arrested he refused to answer questions on legal advice.

    Brooks was then shown his defence statement which does not mention that the defendant knew the bags in question were to be returned to the car park. "I'm sure there a million things it does not say, what's important is what it does say," Brooks told the court. "The prosecutor suggested the witnesses account was "just a story you made up to convince a jury, when that didn't work you now say drunkenness is the only explanation, other than your guilt". "That's just not true," Brooks replied.

    The prosecutor then moved on to the two laptops in question. The first of these was a Sony that had not been accessed for nine months. "It wasn't working," Brooks said, explaining he had "washed the screen with water". "It was a useless and unused machine?" Edis asked. The defendant replied: "It had a lot of information that was incredibly valuable to me." Edis asked where were the files that had the book proposals. "Lots of great ideas sit for a long time, you never know they could be the best seller you ever write." Edis asked the witness if he had sought any advice on what he could do to stop the police taking his property. "I don't believe I did, no," he responded. The prosecutor said there were other ways to deal with the issue. "You could have copied the files onto a USB stick, or used a dropbox online," he said. "You must be a lot more techy than me," the defendant replied, saying "he had no idea" how sections of his book were on a News International server, "I'm really not good at IT," he added.

    The prosecutor then asked the witness if he could help the court over, what the prosecution call, "the missing devices" and showed the jury a list of these. The witness said that he knew his wife Rebekah "went through a lot of Blackberries" but could not recall the exact details. Asked about the three iPhones the prosecution say are missing, Brooks said that his wife used these to check on applications News International were developing but "never used them as as phone".

    Court then rose for the day.

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