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Phone-hacking trial: The archivist, the PA and the legal pornography

By James Doleman |

June 10, 2014 | 7 min read

    Court: Cheryl Carter

  • Judge continues summing up
  • Carter removed boxes on day Andy Coulson arrested
  • Jury to judge if former PA made "mistakes" or lied
  • Charlie Brooks hid his "legal pornography" from police
  • Jury to retire tomorrow
  • When proceedings resumed after lunch, Mr Justice Saunders turned to count six on the indictment, a charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice against Rebekah Brooks and her former PA Cheryl Carter. Carter, all sides agree, withdrew seven boxes of documents from the News International archive on 8 July 2011, the day it was announced that the News of the World was to close. The prosecution allege the boxes, labelled "Rebekah Brooks notebooks" must have contained information relevant to the police inquiry into phone-hacking. The defence say that the boxes were mainly Cheryl's personal property related to her beauty column in the Sun.

    The judge asked the jury to recall that Carter had testified she sent the boxes to the News International archive in 2009, when Rebekah Brooks was promoted to CEO and moved to a new office with less storage space than their previous location. Carter testified that she came to work on the Sunday with her colleague Deborah Keegan before the move, threw away around eight bin bags of rubbish and put her own property in the seven boxes. The PA, the judge reminded the jury, testified she wrote Rebekah Brooks' name on them as she believed a PA would not be allowed to put her own material into the archive.

    Court: Cheryl Carter

    Saunders then turned to the evidence of Nick Mayes, the News International archivist who, he said, "has had rather a bad press in this case". He asked the jury to consider Mayes' evidence that there were a number of items stored by him on behalf of Brooks, including a large portrait of James Murdoch and some framed front pages. Mayes confirmed he had emailed Carter about these items asking what he should do with them and the PA replied she would arrange something. Carter testified, Saunders said, that she thought this referred to the seven boxes. "Did she make a mistake? That's for you to decide," the judge told the jury.

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    The jury was then shown emails from Carter to the archive on 7 July 2011 asking them to call her "urgently". Saunders noted that this was the same day that Andy Coulson was arrested and the police investigation was "swirling around" the newspaper but Carter testified she was only vaguely aware of these events and there was no connection with her email about the archived material. The prosecution, Saunders said, had queried the word urgent in the email and said this contradicted Carter's case that she did not even want the boxes back. The defendant herself testified that there was no urgency but she was just trying to sort the situation out and made no request for same day delivery. The judge also noted that in Nick Mayes notes he wrote that Carter was asking for "Rebekah's notebooks" to be returned.

    The judge then asked the jury to recall Carter had arrived to collect the boxes and told the archivist that they were to be "permanently withdrawn" and told Mays the boxes were her notebooks. Her son Nick then took the boxes home. Carter testified that she went through the boxes at the weekend and "threw out" most of the contents other than a few items that belonged to Brooks which she returned to the office. All sides agree, the judge reminded the court, that on the following Sunday Carter visited the Brooks' Oxfordshire home and had lunch with Rebekah's mother, Deborah Weir. The prosecution, the judge said, allege this was to deliver the property from the boxes. The defence say that Carter and Weir were good friends so there was nothing unusual in the visit. "That's for you to decide," the jury were told, and the judge noted that Carter resigned from News International two weeks later, not long after Brooks had quit her position and been escorted from the building.

    Judge Saunders then asked the jury to consider Carter's police interviews, which they were given copies of. He noted there were "inaccuracies" in her statements and added the "defence call them mistakes, the prosecution call them lies". Which interpretation was correct, Saunders told told the jury, was something only they could decide. Rebekah Brooks' case, the judge said, was that she had nothing to do with archiving or removing the boxes and was never told about it.

    Court then took a short break

    When the jury returned, Judge Saunders moved on to count seven on the indictment, a charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice against Rebekah Brooks, her husband Charlie and News International director of security Mark Hanna. Saunders noted that Charlie Brooks has admitted hiding items from the police but the issue was whether or not he intended to pervert the course of justice. The judge told the court that Charlie Brooks' case was that the items were legal pornography and papers related to his work and had no connection with the police investigation into phone-hacking.

    The judge then went through the various parties' movements on the day Rebekah Brooks was first arrested, 17 July 2011, when the Brooks' and Hanna left an Oxfordshire farm, Entstone manor, to go to London. Rebekah Brooks went to Lewisham police station where she was arrested and Charlie Brooks to the couple's London flat at Chelsea Harbour. CCTV footage, the jury was reminded, showed Charlie Brooks hiding a jiffy bag and a laptop computer behind a set of bins in the apartment's underground car park. A short while later, Judge Saunders told the jury, Hanna arrived and Charlie Brooks gave him the items for safe keeping as the police were about to arrive and search the flat. The security man had a quick look at the items and testified he was satisfied it was legal pornography so he took it with him when he left.

    Court then adjourned for the day.

    All of the defendants deny all of the charges, the trial continues.

    Click here to view more posts from The Drum's daily phone-hacking trial coverage

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