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Phone-hacking trial: Hacking may have caused Milly Dowler voicemail deletions jury told

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.

  • News of the World journalist impersonated Milly Dowler's mother
  • Mulcaire hacking may have caused Dowler voicemails to be deleted, judge suggests
  • If Rebekah Brooks "lied" about Milly Dowler story still not necessarily guilty
  • Proceedings resumed this morning to hear the second day of Mr Justice Saunders' summing up of the evidence heard over the last seven months of the trial. The judge began by asking the jury to open up their folder of evidence relating to the April 2002 interception of the voicemails of Milly Dowler and asked them to note that then News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks was on holiday in Dubai when this happened and her case was that she was told nothing about it then or on her return.

    Saunders asked the jury to recall that Mulcaire discovered a voicemail on Milly's phone from a recruitment agency in Telford but the paper did not inform the police about it until the following day, "who made that decision is unknown" the judge remarked but added that evidence from reporters showed that the voicemail sparked off "a great deal of journalistic activity" with six reporters and photographers being dispatched to Telford to follow up the story.

    Saunders noted that one journalist called the recruitment agency and pretended to be Milly's mother in an attempt to get information. A recruitment agency worker also identified News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner as the person who called him on that Saturday morning. The judge asked the jury to take this evidence into account when they considered Kuttner's submission that he would have called the police as soon as he heard about the voicemail.

    The jury were then shown a copy of the 14 April News of the World story about Milly Dowler which, in the first edition, contains direct quotes from the missing teenager's voicemail. The story was changed by the third edition to remove the quotes. Saunders reminded the jury that the paper was being edited by Andy Coulson that weekend and that Brooks had testified she had only seen the third edition on her return. The judge then noted that Surrey police knew Milly Dowler's phone was hacked but took no action at the time. "You have heard no evidence on that and it is not part of your deliberations," he told the jury.

    Saunders then reminded the court about the testimony of William Hennessey who gave evidence that he met Brooks and her then husband Ross Kemp in a Dubai nightclub and the then editor had left the table to take a telephone call she said was about "a missing Surrey schoolgirl, and was important". The judge reminded the jury that Hennessey had made his statement 10 years after the event and may have been mistaken. The judge told the jury that they should consider this part of the case as part of the "totality" of the evidence they have heard and "not in isolation".

    The judge then turned to the relationship between Brooks and Coulson. He reminded the jury that this was relevant in evaluating the case and they should take into account that Brooks had testified that although they were not in a physical relationship at this point Coulson remained her "best friend". Saunders told the jury they could consider this when they were deciding what information the two would have shared at this period.

    Saunders then asked the jury to move on in time to 2011 when the Guardian revealed that Milly Dowler's phone had been hacked. He noted that the paper had withdrawn its initial claim that messages on Dowler had been deleted but told the jury that it was not impossible that Glen Mulcaire's hacking had led to messages being moved into a saved folder then being automatically erased.

    Court then took a short break.

    When the jury returned the judge asked them to look at a June 2011 email from Brooks to Ross Kemp in which she states "I need to talk to you about phone hacking" which, along with a request to her PA for her 2002 diaries, the prosecution allege show the then CEO had advance knowledge the Milly Dowler story was about to break. He noted that the defence case was that this email was a result of the police informing Brooks that Kemp had also been hacked by Glenn Mulcaire and her preparing a response to questions from Channel 4's dispatches programme. "You decide," he told the jury.

    Saunders then asked the jury to consider the role of Andy Coulson in the Milly Dowler "voicemail story" and noted that Coulson denied being told about the messages at the time despite the fact he was editing that week's edition. Coulson, the court was reminded, had testified that he thought the Dowler story was "nonsense" and he had never taken it seriously. The judge asked the jury to recall that Coulson had agreed he had moved the Milly Dowler story as there was not enough "glamour" in the first part of the paper. Saunders said that the prosecution case was that this was such an important story Coulson must have been told and that it was not credible that Stuart Kuttner would have contacted Surrey police about the Dowler voicemails without telling the acting editor.

    The judge then put it to the jury that Brooks denied ever having been told about the Dowler voicemail story. Saunders said to the jury that if Brooks did know "she has lied to you" but added that that, in itself, doesn't make her guilty of conspiracy as that requires an agreement not just knowledge. The judge noted that the News of the World appeared to have taken no action to prevent phone hacking occurring again but that the defence contended that it was seen at the paper as a one off event that would not happen again.

    Saunders then went through a timeline of other phone hacking victims from 2002 and 2003 including Abbi Titmuss, John Leslie and Sven-Goran Eriksson. The next person mentioned as having his voicemails intercepted while Rebekah Brooks was News of the World editor was then Fire Brigade Union chief Andy Gilchrist. The judge noted that articles shown to the jury showed that both the Sun and the News of the World were "hostile" to Gilchrist personally but there were other national newspapers that took the same position. The Sun did run a story about a 1999 affair Gilchrist had with a Tracy Holland but there was, the judge said, no evidence they came from phone hacking.

    Court the adjourned for the day, all of the defendants deny all of the charges, the trial continues.

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