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Phone-hacking trial: Wine, pizza and an off the cuff judge

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.

Court: Rebekah Brooks

  • Charlie Brooks and friend drank six bottles of wine on day Rebekah Brooks arrested
  • Were "pizzagate" and "broadsword calling Danny boy" proof of conspiracy, jury asked
  • Judge apologises for "off the cuff comment"
  • Court resumed this morning for the final day of the judge's summary of the evidence before the jury retire to consider their verdict. Mr Justice Saunders told the jury that they should stand back and look at the bigger picture of the case and "see the wood for the trees".

    Saunders then went through the evidence that on the day Rebekah Brooks was first arrested, 17 July 2011, electronic devices came to be taken from the Brooks' Oxfordshire home to end up in their London flat at Chelsea Harbour. There, the jury was reminded, Charlie Brooks hid these behind a set of bins in the apartment's underground car park where they were later removed by News International director of security Mark Hanna ahead of a police search of the flat.

    The judge noted that Charlie Brooks had told the court that after the police search concluded he and his friend, Chris Palmer, drank six bottles of wine and he was "worse for wear" by the time his property was returned to the car park by another member of the News International security team who returned them to their previous place behind the bins. The defence case, the jury was reminded, was that it was the effect of this alcohol that led to Charlie Brooks not realising the devices were still behind the dustbin. The prosecution however, the judge noted, pointed to the fact the computers and papers had been put in a black plastic bag which suggested the plan was always to put them back behind the bins. Charlie Brooks, however, the judge said, testified he gave no instruction to place them there. "Who made that decision is something you must consider," the jury were told.

    The judge told the jury to consider that the security team referred to the security man's delivery of a pizza at the same time he returned the bags as "pizzagate". Did this suggest their was something illegal going on, he asked. Saunders also noted that the security man was told to log his hours as pizza delivery and suggested that as the driver had driven from Lewisham to Wapping and then to Chelsea "it must look on the invoice as one of the most expensive pizzas ever delivered," the judge remarked, adding: "I hope it was good." CCTV footage of the arrival of the pizzas and bags was then shown to the jury. "We'll put the World Cup on afterwards," joked Justice Saunders.

    The jury was then reminded that it was at this point two members of the security team had a text exchange: "Broadsword calling Danny Boy, the pizza has been delivered and the chicken is in the pot," to which the reply was "F*cking amateurs, they should have done a DLD [dead letter drop] or brush contact by the Thames." The judge asked the jury to consider if this showed their was something clandestine going on, or as the defence suggest, it was just bored security staff "pretending to be spies".

    Judge Saunders then went through the discovery of the bags by a cleaner, Mr Nascimento, the next morning and their subsequent handover to the police. "You'll have to consider whether Mr Brooks is telling you the truth about this," Saunders told the jury and noted that Rebekah Brooks' evidence was that she had no knowledge that any of this was going on and did not agree to any effort to pervert the course of justice. The judge instructed the jury that to convict they had to be sure that the actions of Charlie Brooks, Rebekah Brooks and Mark Hanna had the intent to pervert the course of public justice.

    Court then took a short break

    When the jury returned, Judge Saunders asked the jury to ignore his "off the cuff remark" about the most expensive pizzas in history. He then moved on to counts two and three: a charge of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office against former News of the World editor Andy Coulson and the paper's Royal editor Clive Goodman. The jury were reminded this was in connection with Royal telephone directories found at Goodman's home when he was arrested in 2006. The prosecution say these were purchased from police officers, the defence deny this.

    The judge noted that the main piece of evidence against the two defendants were emails in which Goodman asked for permission to pay "one of our Royal policeman" £1,000 for the directories, to which Coulson replied: "Fine. But didn't we buy one last year?" Goodman has told the court he bought the books from a contact, "Farrish", whom he would not name as he was a journalistic source. Coulson said that he did not believe Goodman was ever paying a police officer and was "exaggerating".

    The judge then reminded the jury of the defence argument that when News of the World staff sent emails over illegal actions they always used code. Therefore, if they openly talked about an illegal action, it didn't happen, a "subtle point", Saunders said. He also noted another defence point that Goodman had said his source was more likely to be paid if he pretended it was a police officer. The prosecution, the judge said, had questioned this, asking why the paper would be more likely to pay for an illegal action than a legal one. The judge said that Goodman had sent numerous emails to many people in the paper claiming to be paying policemen. "The prosecution ask if all of these people just said 'good old Clive, exaggerating again'," and suggested to the jury they should consider if there was a culture at the News of the World of paying police officers.

    The judge then turned to the last charge of his summary, a single count of conspiring to corrupt a public official against Rebekah Brooks. The prosecution allege that Brooks, while editor of the Sun, agreed to pay a Ministry of Defence civil servant, Bettina Jordan-Barber for stories relating to the armed forces. Saunders told the jury they would have two points to decide: firstly, if they were sure the actions of the civil servant were serious enough to add up to misconduct, and secondly if they could be sure Brooks, as the editor, was aware that her journalist's source was a public official. Brooks, he noted, denied ever being told who the confidential source was, while the prosecution contended she had authorised at least 11 payments to the official and must have been aware of her identity.

    Court then rose for lunch with the final part of the summing up to follow.

    Click here to view more posts from The Drum's daily phone-hacking trial coverage straight from the Old Bailey.

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