Court resumed this morning to hear further testimony from Charlie Brooks, who is charged with one count of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by, the prosecution say, concealing computer equipment from police. Brooks admits hiding the items but has told the court they were his property and unconnected to the investigation into phone-hacking at the News of the World.
Andrew Edis QC, the lead Crown prosecutor, resumed his cross-examination about Charlie Brooks' book "Switch" and any time pressure he was under. Brooks said that the book's publisher, Harper Collins, was part of News Corporation and "they would be delighted to dump me over the Milly Dowler voicemail issue, they would have loved to wash their hands of me and of it". Edis suggested that News Corporation "were incredibly supportive of you and your wife". Brooks replied that Rupert Murdoch was keen to help his wife. "Can we agree that Rupert Murdoch had a great deal of clout in the company?" Edis asked. "I never felt I got a great deal of love from Harper Collins," the defendant replied, but admitted he had no documentary evidence to support the idea he was under time pressure to get the book finished. "You've made this up to explain your conduct," Edis suggested. "No, I've not," Brooks replied.
The prosecution barrister then asked the witness if he was a "trusted associate of News international". "It was a family focused company," Brooks replied, and agreed he sat in conference calls, had a News International email address and he had "floated the idea of a betting exchange" promoted by Sky television. "I was on the periphery," the defendant added. Asked about why he had not told the police about the items he had hidden, the witness told the court: "I'd done something stupid but I stuck with it." Edis suggested: "You are an educated man of the world with lots of experience of life."
"Thanks very much," Brooks replied. "You wouldn't have been sitting there in a coma by the shock, would you?" the prosecutor asked. "I just tried to shut it out," the defendant replied, adding: "I've brought this on myself, I'm not whinging about it, I feel ashamed and furious with myself, I'm horrified I've given police ammunition to smear my wife."
The prosecution then asked the witness why he refused to answer questions during his police interview. "I took legal advice from a very good lawyer," the defendant replied. "Some people would think it's a pretty stupid thing for an innocent man to say nothing," Edis said. "No, I don't think so," Brooks replied. Edis reminded the witness of the caution he was given. "If you do not say anything he later relied on in court it could damage your defence," adding: "It gave you the chance to see the evidence before making up a story that fitted the evidence."
"I didn't think that way at the time, I had an experienced lawyer," Brooks replied. "An honest man would have taken the opportunity to clear your name, you are lying about your thoughts," Edis retorted. "An innocent man is allowed to take legal advice," Brooks replied.
The prosecution barrister then asked the witness about the details of 17 July 2011, when police searched his property. Brooks was asked if he remembered calling News International's security chief after the police had left but agreed it might have been to arrange the return of the property he had asked him to "look after" while the search went on. Edis asked: "Was that not a strange moment to get drunk?"
"It was ill-advised," Brooks replied. "I wasn't falling about," he added. The prosecutor asked about the defendant's return from the police station: "Do you remember that conversation?" Brooks said he remembered part of it and he'd told his wife that the police had searched the cornflakes, "which I found weird," he said.
Brooks was asked why he used his friend Mr Palmer's phone to make calls that day. "Mine was flat," Brooks said. "I'm the world's worst phone charger," the witness said. Brooks was asked where he got the number to call Mark Hanna. "From my phone," he replied. "So it was in working order?" the prosecutor asked. Edis asked if the witness was "coherent" at that point. "It wouldn't make sense that you were totally drunk that early in the evening," he said. "I wasn't totally drunk, falling about or anything," Brooks replied. Edis suggested to the witness he had not asked for a pizza to be delivered when his property was being returned and this was just a cover "in case the police were still interested". "It never crossed my mind," Brooks said. "I just knew Mark Hanna was going to bring my stuff back, and bring a pizza."
The court was then shown CCTV footage of security man Daryl Jorsling returning to the car park under Brooks' flat on the night in question. The footage showed Jorsling placing a large black bag behind the bins. The footage then showed Brooks' friend Palmer taking two pizza boxes from Jorsling, then letting him out of the car park exit. "These are two people doing what you told them to," Edis suggested, and asked why Palmer did not pick up the bags. "And you didn't notice?" Edis asked. "No I didn't," Brooks replied. "I wasn't focusing on it, I was probably watching Sky News about Rebekah," he added, saying: "I gave no-one instructions to leave the property behind the bin bags."
The prosecution then moved on to the next morning and asked Brooks about his account that it was only then that he asked the security staff about his briefcases. "These were things that were so important to you it was worth the trouble to hide from police, but you hadn't noticed that Mr Palmer had not brought them back," Edis said. "On Monday morning I had the hangover from hell and didn't think about it, I appreciate it's strange," Brooks responded. Edis said: "That's just not true, is it?" adding: "The plan was always to hide the bags behind the bins in case the police came back."
"There was no plan," Brooks replied.
The court then took a short break.
When the trial resumed, Andrew Edis QC asked Brooks about his witness statement from April 2012 and asked why it did not mention the return of the hidden items to his flat. "I had no part of that," Brooks replied, adding: "I'm not a lawyer so I don't know how detailed defence statements have to be."
"This is first time you have mentioned any of this is in this witness box," the prosecution barrister suggested. "I don't know," Brooks replied, blaming "a slightly alcoholic aberration" for his actions that night. "I'd drunk three bottles of wine, which may not be a lot to you," he said to the barrister, leading to Judge Saunders intervening and asking the witness to avoid personal statements.
Edis put it to the witness that the real point of all of these actions was to "hide evidence that might damage your wife".
"No, not at all," said Brooks. "The only reason to take such a risk was to hide something important, your actions were to protect your wife, to whom you are extremely loyal," the prosecutor said. "That's just not true," the defendant replied. The cross-examination then ended, and as there was no re-examination the witness stepped down from the stand.
The court then took a break before the next defendant Mark Hanna, which we will cover in out next report.