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Phone-hacking trial: Rebekah Brooks' actions 'pretty murky', prosecution allege

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.

Charlie and Rebekah Brooks in underground car park

  • Prosecution continues closing argument
  • 3 million News International emails deleted
  • Rebekah Brooks intent on keeping her job after Milly Dowler story broke
  • Brooks and her PA's actions "pretty murky", prosecution suggest
  • Charlie Brooks defence "ludicrous", jury told
  • Proceedings resumed this morning to hear further closing argument from lead prosecution barrister Andrew Edis QC. Edis began by reminding the jury where he left off yesterday, at the email deletion policy at News International instigated by then CEO Rebekah Brooks in 2010. The barrister showed the jury an email in which it is decided not to send an email informing staff of the new policy as this might be "misconstrued" if leaked to the media. Edis told the court that over three million emails were deleted and "have never been seen again". "It was not quite a clean sweep, but not far off," he added.

    The lead prosecutor them moved to January 2011 when Brooks requested that her office be "swept" for listening devices, one day before News International handed over emails implicating three of their own journalists in phone hacking. Edis reminded the jury that in April 2011 the police began to make arrests and Brooks herself has testified that she began to be concerned she might be arrested and her home subject to search. The QC asked the jury to consider Cheryl Carter's evidence that she had not been aware of the arrests: "It can't be easy to be asked to do your boss's dirty work and then end up in the witness box". Edis said Carter's testimony might be a "panicked reaction" but the jury may consider what this meant for her credibility as a witness.

    The prosecution barrister then asked the jury to consider the removal of seven boxes of documents from News International's archive on 8 July 2011. He reminded the jury that this was the "last day of the News of the World," after the Guardian newspaper had broken the Milly Dowler story a few days earlier. Edis asked the jury to consider that while many of the events in this case happened many years ago this only occurred three years ago "there has been a lot of loss of memory in this case". He reminded the jury of Rebekah Brooks' evidence that she did not remember why she was asking for her 2002 desk diaries and bank statements on this date.

    Edis then showed the jury an email from Brooks to James Murdoch from the morning of 8 July 2011. The message, titled "plan B", was, the prosecutor suggested, an attempt by Brooks to keep her job and pointed to its suggestion of "slamming Les [Hinton]" and doing what "Mr Blair suggested and produce a report". The prosecutor said that this showed the former editor was planning to stay and therefore had a motive to conceal evidence. "On that very day," Edis went on, "Mrs Brooks had in her mind the ongoing criminal investigation and she knows she's on the agenda, is it a coincidence that on the same day Mrs Carter is sending urgent emails to remove boxes from the archive?"

    The prosecutor then reminded the jury that when Carter received the boxes she had them taken to her own home. "The rational explanation for that is that she wanted them tucked away somewhere where the police will not find them," Edis suggested. On 10 July, the court was told, cell phone data showed Carter visited Brooks' home in Oxfordshire. "What was that journey about," the barrister said. "Was it perhaps to deliver property of some kind?" he asked.

    Edis then asked the jury to look at a police statements, given by Carter in September 2011. "It wouldn't have been a surprise to her as she would have known her son had already been interviewed," the court was told. In the statement Carter told the police she had moved the boxes that week as "Rebekah was at boot camp". "That is just a lie," the barrister told the jury. "And not a very good one," he added. The statement went on to say that the boxes were mostly her own property, from her Sun beauty column, and she had "binned 30 notebooks" and put other items in her mother in law's garage. Edis suggested that this was done "for reasons that appear pretty murky".

    Court then took a short break.

    When the jury returned the lead prosecuting barrister reminded the jury of Carter's testimony that Rebekah Brooks did not use notebooks. Why then, Edis said, was it that during the former PA's police interviews she referred to "Rebekah's pads" and "spiral notebooks." Also stored in in Brooks' stationery cupboard there were spare notebooks, "was this in case she suddenly decided to start using them," Edis asked.

    The prosecutor then moved on to count seven on the indictment, a charge of perverting the course of justice against Rebekah Brooks, Charlie Brooks and News International head of security Mark Hanna. Edis said that the Crown case that these three people concealed or destroyed documents and computer equipment that may have implicated Brooks or the company over phone hacking. Edis told the court that on the weekend of the 17 July Brooks knew she was going to be arrested and suggested that in preparation for this her Oxfordshire home, Jubilee Barn, was "cleaned" of documents and computers.

    Edis asked the jury to consider that "The police treated Mrs Brooks with particular sensitivity gave her several days notice, and a choice of police stations." There was no "dawn raid", the prosecutor said, adding that this was repaid by a series of events that led to documents and computers being concealed behind bins. The principle organiser, Edis said, was Charlie Brooks. "He is the one on the CCTV," but added he would not have done this without his wife being aware. "He only would have done this if she wanted him to."

    The prosecutor then asked the jury to consider the facts of the case. "We know that Charlie Brooks went to Jubilee Barn on the Sunday as Rebekah Brooks' mother has told the court she saw him there, what was he up to," Edis asked. The QC then asked the jury to consider why the Brooks' property was taken to London in a different car from the one they were travelling in to Lewisham police station. "If these computers were so important to Mr Brooks why did he not take them with him, what possible explanation is there of that?" he asked.

    Edis reminded the jury that when the bags were later found in black plastic bags behind the bin they contained a laptop and an iPod. "What else was in the bag when it set off," he asked, calling the sequence of events, on the surface, "odd". The prosecutor asked the jury to look at a schedule of phone records from 17 July 2011. The prosecutor reminded the jury of the evidence of "cell site expert" Mr Kutts, who was, Edis remarked, "assassinated with great skill by Mr Clegg". He went on, however, to suggest there was no real dispute that Hanna had visited Jubilee barn that Sunday. "What was this visit about?" he asked.

    The prosecutor reminded the jury that around 15 minutes after Rebekah Brooks was arrested, Charlie Brooks is seen on CCTV cameras at the couple's London flat carrying a jiffy bag, containing pornography, and a laptop that belonged to him. "If this was embarrassing why would he send this to the premises of his wife's former employers rather than throw it in the Thames which was only a few yards away?" Edis pointed to the phone records showing that the security staff and Charlie Brooks were in constant contact. "They were working as a team," he suggested. "There was a full-scale police investigation underway under a huge wave of publicity and people were scurrying around squirreling things away, what do you think was going on?" Edis asked.

    The barrister then took the jury through the timeline of events after the bags had been removed from the London flat and taken back to News International's offices in Wapping. "What has happened, it's a bit of a mystery," he said. At 9.30pm, after the police had left, the bags were taken back to the London flat's car park under the cover, Edis suggested, of delivering a pizza. The jury were reminded that the security man delivering the pizza, who we cannot name for legal reasons, can be seen on the CCTV placing two black plastic bags back behind the car park bins were they were found by a cleaner the next morning. The prosecutor invited the jury to consider Charlie Brooks testimony that he had forgotten about the computers and "ludicrous" and suggested that the reason they had been put in black plastic bags was that it was planned to leave them behind the bins overnight. "If you see bin bags behind the bins you are hardly likely to notice."

    Edis then asked the jury to consider the CCTV footage the next morning where there is a "hullabaloo" when it is realised the bags are gone. "Who is there?" he asked "Rebekah Brooks," he said. "None of this could have happened unless she wanted it to," the prosecutor suggested to the jury.

    Court then rose for lunch

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