Nick Davies's Blog, page 5

March 4, 2014

Phone-hacking trial told of fortnight of turmoil as well as text messages of support from Tony Blair and Piers Morgan

Rebekah Brooks recalled the moment she "lost it" after her husband Charlie told her the "very odd story" of how he was facing arrest as a result of hiding two laptops and his collection of pornography behind rubbish bins in the underground car park beneath their London flat.

She told the phone-hacking trial at the Old Bailey that the incident came at the end of a fortnight of turmoil in July 2011 during which she closed the News of the World, resigned her job and spent 12 hours in police custody while, in the background, Tony Blair and Piers Morgan sent her messages of support and Michael Gove said he was keen to see her.

Answering questions from her barrister, Jonathan Laidlaw QC, she said she had not hidden any of her own electronic devices from the police when she was arrested on Sunday 17 July and had not realised that her husband had hidden his until the following day. She had gone to sleep in their flat that lunchtime, she said, and had woken a few hours later to be confronted with his story.

"In summary he said that he had given his bags to security – his mobile office basically, and there had been a mix-up over them. It sounded like a very odd story – and then he had put them here, and then they had taken them there.

"He pretty much told me everything at that point and said that he had hidden his rather large porn collection. I was quite exasperated. He then said to me that the police had found his bags by the bins. He had been talking to lawyers while I was asleep and he told me there was a chance of him being arrested. It sounded like a monumental cock-up."

It was, she said, "the final straw in what had been quite a cataclysmic few days".

The turmoil had begun, she said, on the afternoon of Monday 4 July when she was attending a fertility clinic and received an email to tell her the Guardian had published a story claiming that the News of the World had hacked the voicemail of murdered Surrey schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, when Brooks was editing the paper, in April 2002.

She said she had no way of knowing whether there was any truth in the story, which included the claim that the News of the World had deleted some messages and given the missing girl's mother false hope that she was alive, a claim which was subsequently shown to be incorrect. "We were completely at a loss, all over the place, trying to find out what was true and what wasn't." The court has heard that the paper's specialist phone-hacker, Glenn Mulcaire, has admitted intercepting Milly Dowler's voicemail.

That evening, she had exchanged texts with Piers Morgan, one of her predecessors as editor of the News of the World. "When it rains, it fucking pours," he wrote. "Grit your teeth and stay strong."

"Terrible," she replied. "Made me feel sick watching the news. Can't believe any reporter would do that. Must have been Mulcaire."

"It wasn't a staffer. You have got to get that out there fast. Lots of fury building on the Internet."

"Will do. We are taking the usual News Corp tin hat approach."

In the early hours of the following morning, Morgan texted again: "You're trending worldwide on Twitter. Congrats."

Later that day, Blair emailed her: "Let me know if there's anything I can help you with. Thinking of you. I have been through things like this."

"Thank you," she replied."I know what it's like. GB (Gordon Brown) pals getting their own back."

Michael Gove then emailed, the court heard, to say he was very keen to catch up with her, although Brooks had had to cancel a series of hospitality events at Wembley to which Gove and his wife had been invited.

On the Friday of that week, 8 July, the prosecution claim, Brooks asked her PA, Cheryl Carter, to get rid of seven boxes containing 12 years of her notebooks by removing them from the company archive and destroying them. Brooks told the court that she had not generally used notebooks since becoming a features editor in 1995 and that she had never used the company archive at all. She said Cheryl Carter was brilliant but 'scatty and forgetful" and cited a day when the PA had told Rupert Murdoch that Brooks was unable to speak to him because she was in the bargain furniture store, MFI. In reality, Brooks said, she had asked Carter to tell the proprietor that she was in a briefing with the security service, MI5.

Mr Laidlaw asked her if she would trust somebody scatty to help her conspire to pervert the course of justice. "No," she replied. "But also because she is an incredibly decent and hard-working woman. She wouldn't do it, not just because she's scatty – which she is – but because she is true."

Brooks denies conspiring to intercept communications and conspiring to pervert the course of justice. The trial continues.

Nick Davies
theguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on March 04, 2014 12:28 • 46 views

March 3, 2014

Former News International chief tells phone-hacking trial of meeting with No 10 spin doctor days before he resigned

Rebekah Brooks secretly met Andy Coulson to warn him about "incriminating evidence" of phone hacking a week before Coulson resigned as the prime minister's director of communications, the Old Bailey heard on Monday.

Brooks told the jury in the phone-hacking trial that an internal search of emails in January 2011 had disclosed three messages which showed that a News of the World journalist was "fully engaged" in the interception of voicemail. She had asked her personal assistant to arrange for her to meet Coulson early on the morning of 14 January, specifying that the location should be "discreet".

She said she had called the meeting after months of civil litigation in which public figures had been suing News International for allegedly intercepting their voicemail during 2005-06 when Coulson was editing the News of the World. "It was to tell Andy that we had found some pretty incriminating evidence. It was with the backdrop of the previous few months as well. It was evidently becoming very difficult for Andy's position in Downing Street with this ongoing civil litigation process … it was a very difficult balance between running the communications for Downing Street and being part of the story." The jury have heard that Coulson resigned seven days later.

On her eighth day in the witness box Brooks traced the gathering crisis as the disclosure of the three incriminating messages led to the creation of the Operation Weeting police inquiry. As that inquiry began, on 26 January, she arranged for her office to be swept for bugs. She did this, she said, because her Blackberry was behaving oddly and because so much information seemed to be leaking. "It probably sounds paranoid," she said, "but maybe that's the world we lived in … the level of paranoia was quite high. My own revolved about secrecy and privacy. Everything seemed to leak in some form or another. It got worse and worse."

By April, for the first time, she was warned that she might be arrested. She was on holiday in Barbados, she said, when she had a telephone conference to discuss the arrest on 14 April of the News of the World's former news editor, James Weatherup. She was told that the police were very angry and were threatening to take action against one of their lawyers, Ian Burton of Burton Copeland, because he had advised the paper to clear Weatherup's desk before they had a chance to search it. "I was told that the team dealing with the Metropolitan police believed that I could be arrested on my return."

At around this time, she told the jury, she had learned that the head of Operation Weeting, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, had asked for her to be removed from the "confidentiality club" of News International personnel who were allowed to read documents being disclosed in the civil actions. When she returned from Barbados she had sought legal advice from a London law firm.

By June, she disclosed, the company was already considering closing down the News of the World – at least a month before the Milly Dowler crisis – in the hope that this would help Rupert Murdoch's bid to take over BSkyB.

The jury were told of an email, written by the company's director of public affairs, Simon Greenberg, in early June 2011, as News Corp sought to complete the takeover, which was known internally as Operation Rubicon. Reacting to an allegation that the News of the World had been involved in hacking computers as well as voicemail, Greenberg wrote: "This is why we should consider the shut-down option. Is the brand too toxic for itself and for us?"

Brooks said that she had previously discussed the possibility of closing the paper with Greenberg and with the company's general manager, Will Lewis..

Brooks denies conspiring to intercept voicemail. Coulson denies conspiring to hack phones.

The trial continues.

Nick Davies
theguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on March 03, 2014 09:40 • 41 views

February 28, 2014

Former editor asked in phone-hacking trial to explain emails from reporters at Sun about sources connected to police and military

Rebekah Brooks was asked on Friday to explain the legality of a series of contacts between her journalists at the Sun and sources connected to the police, military and MI5.

The jury in the phone-hacking trial were shown an email from April 2006, in which a reporter asked her to authorise a payment to a source who had provided a story involving the royal mayor of Tetbury who was leaving his wife.

The reporter wrote: "I would like to keep it anonymous because the contact is a serving police officer. He has supplied us with numerous other tips in the past." The reporter asked that the payment be made in cash through a branch of the Thomas Cook travel agency.

Questioned by her barrister, Jonathan Laidlaw QC, Brooks said: "Obviously, a police officer selling information directly associated with their duty, I was absolutely aware of the illegality."

She said such a payment could be justified in the public interest only with a high threshold, such as the exposure of high-level police corruption.

She continued: "But, of course, police officers are just as likely to come across a story that comes about in their daily lives. If a copper is living next door to the royal mayor of Tetbury wife-swapping situation, it's not in the course of his duty. People may have an issue with it, but it's not – as far as I'm concerned – against the law for me to authorise it."

She was shown another email, dated February 2006, in which the Sun's crime editor, Mike Sullivan, said a police source had suggested the then home secretary, Charles Clarke, had given the News of the World a story about a police cover-up and then asked her to authorise a payment of £500 for a source who had helped on stories about Kate Moss's drug dealer and about a woman who had hired a hitman who turned out to be a police officer. Sullivan added: "With respect, I'm not sure it's wise putting this kind of thing down on emails where there is a permanent record."

Brooks told the court that Sullivan had been crime editor for a long time and received "a lot of information from serving police officers but also not necessarily – I would say rarely – for money".

She said that the Sun had a pretty good relationship with Scotland Yard, which included sponsoring its football team. Turning to the email, she said: "Nothing would suggest to me that this was payment going to a serving officer. I would probably have read it and thought it was one of Mike's contacts – crime journalists, ex-crime journalists, all with contacts at the Yard."

Asked to explain Sullivan's final line about it being unwise to record "this kind of thing" in an email, she told the jury that that could refer to writing about sources. "If you want to see something sinister, you could read it that he didn't want this payment to be discussed on email. But it could be that you shouldn't be naming a source for the police cover-up in email."

She added: "It sounds a little bit chippy, the end. It could be that he just didn't like to be questioned about a payment for one of his sources."

Another email, dated April 2008, asked her to authorise a payment of £1,000 for a picture of an army officer who had been involved in a road accident which had killed a police officer: "We need to pay in cash as the guy who got us the picture works at Sandhurst and went into Sandhurst and took the picture off the wall so he doesn't want it to be traced back to him." Brooks said she did not remember the email but said that it did not necessarily refer to a public official.

On another occasion, in July 2005, an executive emailed her that "a tipster who says he's a policeman" had told the news desk that the singer George Michael had been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs and had then been released without charge. Brooks said this had nothing to do with money. "It isn't unusual, in my experience, for a police officer to ring up the paper. He is clearly not doing so for money."

Questioned about an email from a senior journalist in which he referred to "my man in Five", Brooks said she understood that that referred to a source in MI5. She told the court that at some point, MI5 and MI6 had decided to be "a little bit more open" with the media and that she had attended briefings with both services.

She went on to describe an incident in March 1998 when, as deputy editor of the Sun, she had been called in to Downing Street to meet representatives of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ after a source had told them that all ports had been alerted to watch for anthrax being smuggled into the country on the orders of Saddam Hussein. She said they had asked her not to publish the story but she had argued that the public had a right to know about the threat. On the basis that this was justified by high public interest, she had authorised a payment to the source, a chief petty officer who subsequently had been arrested and prosecuted for breaking the Official Secrets Act.

She said she had been offered the chance to pay a source for details of the "MPs' expenses fraud" in the spring of 2009 but had found it a very difficult decision. "In terms of error of judgment, I think this is probably quite high on my list. I thought about it too long. I drove my news team crazy with my indecision." In the end, the information had been bought by the Daily Telegraph who had done a brilliant job with it. "It was quite embarrassing that we didn't get it," she said.

Brooks denies conspiring to commit misconduct in public office.

The trial continues.

Nick Davies
theguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on February 28, 2014 10:56 • 32 views

February 26, 2014

Former News of the World editor tells phone-hacking trial 'complexities on the corporate level' stopped her from being witness

Rebekah Brooks turned down a police request to help the original 2006 prosecution of phone hacking at the News of the World because of "complexities on the corporate level", an Old Bailey jury heard Wednesday.

Giving evidence for the fifth day in the phone-hacking trial, Brooks described the "startling" sequence of events after she heard on 8 August 2006 that police had arrested Clive Goodman and raided the NoW's office.

She had discussed the case with the chairman, Les Hinton, she said: "I think initially there was certainly concern about the investigation and what it would uncover and where it was going. It was all quite an anxious situation."

Soon, she said, she had discovered that police had also arrested a private detective, Glenn Mulcaire, and that Mulcaire had worked for the NoW during her editorship between May 2000 and January 2003.

When police contacted her to tell her that Mulcaire had hacked her phone, she agreed to meet a detective, Keith Surtees, in the RAC Club. "I had a natural curiosity to find out what had happened to my own phone but of course, from a corporate point of view, I also wanted to find out where the police were in the investigation."

The result, the court heard, was that Brooks reported back to Les Hinton and Andy Coulson that police had identified more than a hundred victims of Mulcaire; believed the NoW had paid him £1m for his work; and had noticed that routinely he would speak to the paper immediately before and after accessing a target's voicemail.

She said the detective had asked if she would become a witness for the prosecution of Goodman and Mulcaire because she had been hacked with unusual frequency and consistency compared to other victims. Brooks had consulted Hinton and others about this. "We all agreed it would not be the right thing to do for me to make a formal complaint and go on to be a prosecution witness with the complexities that would cause on the corporate level since the private detective had worked for the News of the World."

She recalled that Goodman and Mulcaire had been jailed in January 2007 and that Coulson had resigned as editor of the NoW "although there was never any suggestion that he knew what these two people had been doing".

She went on to summarise public statements made by Hinton and by the new editor of the NoW, Colin Myler, to the effect that Goodman had acted alone in hacking phones and was "a rogue exception" on the paper.

Brooks then subsequently offered a job to the paper's royal editor, Goodman, even though he had been convicted of crime, because News International wanted to avoid what Hinton told her was "potential publicity nightmare" if Goodman went public with hacking allegations he was making against senior NoW journalists, she said. Brooks told the court that she had had no reason to believe him.

When Goodman was released from prison in March 2007, she said, he had been angry because he had been sacked and was planning to appeal to an employment tribunal and to identify others at the paper who, he alleged, had been involved in hacking. "It was pretty much everybody who had a senior role at the News of the World. He certainly named the editor, deputy editor, managing editor and executives on the news desk."

But she said : "I don't think anybody – me included – thought that the allegations Clive was making had any basis. It was as a result of being turned down on his challenge for dismissal."

After Hinton had warned of a "potential publicity nightmare" at any employment tribunal and so she had arranged to have lunch with Goodman – again at the RAC Club – where she had offered him a job at the Sun. The jury have been told that separately Brooks wrote to the Press Complaints Commission to tell them that any journalist who broke the law would face instant dismissal. She told the jury that Goodman had turned down her offer and that she believed he had settled his dispute with News International.

Brooks denies conspiring to intercept voicemail. The trial continues.

Nick Davies
theguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on February 26, 2014 11:44 • 25 views

February 25, 2014

Ex-editor denies she knew of Milly Dowler message interception, saying 'I can't see it would have been a useful thing to do'

Rebekah Brooks on Tuesday told an Old Bailey jury she had not been involved in the hacking of Milly Dowler's voicemail and, as editor of the News of the World, had not been told that some of her staff believed they had found the missing girl alive and well three weeks after she disappeared.

On her fourth day in the witness box, Brooks also said that during her editorship of the News of the World, she had not realised it was illegal to intercept voicemail. She had never sanctioned it, she said. "I can't see that it would have been a particularly useful thing to do," she added.

The jury in the phone-hacking trial has heard that Milly Dowler vanished on the afternoon of Thursday 21 March 2002 and that on Wednesday 10 April the then news editor of the News of the World, Neville Thurlbeck, commissioned the paper's specialist phone-hacker, Glenn Mulcaire, to access her phone messages.

Brooks's barrister, Jonathan Laidlaw QC, asked her: "Did you have anything to do with Neville Thurlbeck's tasking of Glenn Mulcaire and his accessing of Milly Dowler's voicemail?"

"No," she replied.

"Did you at the time know anything about that, before it happened?"

"No."

"After it happened?"

"No."

The jury has heard that Mulcaire intercepted a message that appeared to reveal that the missing Surrey schoolgirl had been offered a job interview at a factory in Telford, Shropshire and that, without informing the police who were searching for her, Thurlbeck had sent a team of reporters to Telford to try to find her.

Brooks, who was on holiday in Dubai at the time, said she had stayed in contact with the paper which was edited in her absence by her deputy, Andy Coulson.

But she told the court she could not recall having discussed the missing girl that week: "I think I would remember if Andy or whoever on the paper had said: 'We've found Milly Dowler' … I don't remember having any discussions about her disappearance while I was away."

She said that if she had heard about the Telford story, she would have told her staff to contact police. "It's the parents. You want to tell them immediately via the police, as soon as possible. That would have been the right thing to do."

Laidlaw asked Brooks to comment on the evidence of an earlier witness, William Hennessy, who told the court he happened to meet her in Dubai that week and recalled her making a lot of phone calls and, on one occasion, walking away because she had to talk to someone about "the missing Surrey girl".

She said: "I don't particularly remember saying that. I don't actually remember meeting Mr Hennessy that clearly … Being forced to remember something so far ago, you do try and remember the details but I just don't particularly remember meeting him or saying that, but it's possible that I did."

Brooks said she had not seen the early editions of the News of the World on Sunday 14 April, which quoted several voicemail messages from the missing girl's phone. She said she had seen only a later edition, in which the story had been cut down. During the following week, she said, she had not been aware that her managing editor, Stuart Kuttner, sent an email to Surrey police in which, the court has heard, he challenged them to confirm that Milly Dowler had been offered a job in Telford and quoted a voicemail from her phone.Earlier, Brooks told the jury that in the late 1990s she had heard that it was possible to access other people's voicemail. "There was certainly some publicity about it, about the flaw in the system." Looking back, she could not see how it would have helped the News of the World on any of the big campaigns or stories they had run under her editorship, she said, although it might have helped other departments with "celebrity tittle tattle."

"No one – no desk head, no journalist – ever came to me and said 'We are working on such and such story but we need to access voicemail; or asked for me to sanction it.'" She said she had not realised that it would have been a breach of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. She was pretty sure, she added, that she had not even heard of the act. She added: "Even though I didn't know it was illegal, I still would have felt it was absolutely in the category of a serious breach of privacy."

Brooks denies one count of conspiring to intercept voicemail. The trial continues.

Nick Davies
theguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on February 25, 2014 12:40 • 26 views

February 21, 2014

Brooks detailed three periods of 'physical intimacy' with Andy Coulson as she described her relationships with men

Rebekah Brooks broke off her evidence in tears as her lawyer invited her to discuss sensitive details of her private life in open court at the Old Bailey on Friday.

After a short break, she went on to describe her attempts to have children using fertility treatments, finally culminating in the surrogate birth of her daughter, Scarlett, and to describe the detail of her relationships with men, including three periods of "physical intimacy" with Andy Coulson. "My personal life – as everyone now knows – has been a bit of a car crash for many years," she told the jury.

On her second day in the witness box at the phone-hacking trial, she also talked about her role as a "hands-on editor", running the News of the World campaign to change the law on sex offenders after the murder of Sarah Payne in July 2000 and navigating the controversy over an undercover operation to expose the business activities of the Countess of Wessex.

Her barrister, Jonathan Laidlaw QC, told her he was "sorry to have to do this" before asking her a series of questions about her private life. As she described her relationship with the TV actor Ross Kemp, she said that after a 12-month separation, they had come back together in 2001 and "we brought up the subject of maybe living together, of taking it more seriously and buying a house and getting married and having children …"

Her voice then faltered and she asked the judge for a break before leaving the courtroom in tears. When she returned 10 minutes later, she told the jury that in mid-2001, she had "a scare" and ended up in hospital and later started fertility treatment. She married Kemp in June 2002 married Kemp but, after she was made editor of the Sun in January 2003, their relationship had become more difficult.

"We were both working incredibly long hours in completely different industries," she said. "The war in Iraq started pretty quickly after I became editor and we were doing 4am, 5am editions, and I and my senior team moved into a hotel next door to Wapping, where we lived … So probably 2003 was a lost year for us. Basically, life was put on hold."

Laidlaw then asked her about her relationship with Andy Coulson. Earlier in the trial, the jury were given a letter, written by Brooks to Coulson in February 2004. The crown claimed that it revealed that they had been having an affair for six years and that they trusted each other with secrets. "The fact is that you are my best friend," she wrote. "I tell you everything. I confide in you. I seek your advice." The crown told the jury that the letter made it "simply incredible" that Brooks had not known about the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone in April 2002, when Coulson was editing the News of the World while Brooks was on holiday.

On Friday Brooks said she first met Coulson in 1995 or 1996 and they had become "extremely good friends".Laidlaw asked her if that had involved "physical intimacy". Brooks replied: "No, not then … It wasn't until 1998 when Andy and I became close."

That period in their relationship ended, she said, then resumed after her marriage to Kemp became troubled in 2003. "I'm sure if Ross was here, he'd say our whole relationship was a bit like a rollercoaster. Sometimes it was good. Sometimes it wasn't so." She and Coulson had a third "period of intimacy" in 2006, she said.

Turning to her letter to Coulson which, the jury have been told, police found on one of her laptops, she said: "I don't even think I finished it. I don't know if anyone has been in this situation, but at a time of hurt, you come home and have a few glasses of wine and get on the computer. That's what I did. I wrote my feelings down at that time. These are my thoughts really to myself, but obviously I wrote it in a letter form with the intention of finishing it and maybe sending it. I saw it again when the police found it and produced it."

Laidlaw asked her to comment on the claim that she had a six-year affair with Coulson. "First of all, it isn't true. I know that's what the police and the prosecution say having analysed the letter. Obviously at the time I wrote this, I was in a great deal of emotional anguish as I think you can tell from the letter … The six-year period was not referring back to 1998. Obviously I have read it a lot since the police found it. I think that's what I was referring to … Andy and I were incredibly close during that time, and that comes across as well."

Laidlaw asked if the affair had any impact on her friendship with Coulson. She said: "I think any affair is by its very nature dysfunctional in some ways. I think it certainly added a complexity to what was a very good friendship … It's very easy to blame work but the hours were long and hard, you get thrown together. I know it was wrong and it shouldn't have happened, but it did."

She said her relationships with Kemp and Coulson "weren't meant to be". After separating from Kemp in late 2005, she met her current husband, Charlie Brooks, at the beginning of March 2007. "I think it's fair to say we both knew very quickly that we wanted to be together. I told Charlie obviously about the failed fertility treatment in the past and said that if we did get together and he wanted children, I probably wouldn't be the right person." He told her he wanted to get married anyway and they consulted a specialist, Dr Mohammed Taranissi, who suggested surrogate parenthood.

They researched it and spoke to others who had been through it. "It's a big thing to do," she told the jury. "So, my mum was out shopping in Warrington one day and she bumped into my cousin who I was very close to at school." They started to talk about surrogacy, and the cousin volunteered to carry Brooks's baby, born in January 2012.

Brooks went on to describe her 10-year campaign to change the law after the murder of Sarah Payne. She told the court she had made mistakes, publishing details of one convicted paedophile – which provoked "a riot of sorts" in Portsmouth – and wrongly including in a gallery of predatory paedophiles a teacher who had an affair with an underage pupil. But, she said, the campaign had succeeded in closing a series of loopholes in sexual offences legislation and giving the public the right to ask police for information about convicted paedophiles in their area.

She also recalled how she asked her undercover specialist, Mazher Mahmood, to investigate the Countess of Wessex by posing as a "fake sheikh". This was extremely costly, she said, because "he would live the life of a true sheikh with a Bentley and a penthouse suite which he always told me was imperative." In the event, she said, she had agreed with Buckingham Palace that she would not publish the story if the countess gave her an interview. However, a week later, other newspapers had published inaccurate accounts of the countess's comments to the fake sheikh and so she had decided to publish the story after all. In an internal email at the time, she had warned other executives that "all our entrapment and subterfuge must be justified 110%. We have to be careful to ensure that everything we do is inside the law".

Brooks denies conspiring to intercept voicemail, conspiring to commit misconduct in public office and two counts of conspiring to pervert the course of justice. The trial continues.

Nick Davies
theguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on February 21, 2014 11:09 • 21 views

February 20, 2014

Ex-News of the World editor tells jury of newsroom misogyny and intense competition on rise to top

Rebekah Brooks on Thursday stepped into the witness box at the Old Bailey for the first time and told the jury that as editor of the News of the World, she had never heard of Glenn Mulcaire and had known nothing of his phone-hacking activity for the paper.

"It's impossible for an editor to know every source for every story," she added. "Of course that's impossible with the sheer volume of stories coming into the paper."

Questioned by her barrister, Jonathan Laidlaw QC, she gave glimpses of her dealings with Rupert Murdoch and Tony Blair, and described her experience of life inside tabloid newsrooms, which included several examples of misogyny and tales of internal competition so intense that at one point she suspected colleagues of cutting her phone lines to stop her following up on an exclusive.

Before she began her evidence, the judge, Mr Justice Saunders, told the jury that, following legal argument, they should acquit her on one of the five charges against her. The prosecution had alleged that she had conspired to commit misconduct in public office by authorising payment to a military source for a photograph of Prince William in a bikini at a James Bond theme party at Sandhurst military academy. The judge said there was "considerable uncertainty" about where the photograph came from. A temporary jury foreman formally declared her not guilty on the charge.

Opening the defence, after more than three months of prosecution evidence, Laidlaw told the jury: "It is time for you to see Mrs Brooks as she is, not as she is described or spoken of elsewhere."

She told the jury how, in seven years, she had risen from a post as junior researcher on the News of the World's Sunday magazine to become deputy editor of the paper in December 1995, aged 27. Along the way, she said, she had encountered "a bit of old school misogyny".

There was only a small percentage of women in the newsroom. The features department had more women and was, therefore, known internally to some as the "pink parlour", and when she became a founder member of Women in Journalism, to promote the role of women in Fleet Street, she was aware of WIJ being referred to as "the whingers".

She told the jury about some of the stories that had helped her career. She had befriended the England footballer Paul Gascoigne after he broke his leg in the FA Cup final in 1991. As a result, in July 1994, he had agreed to give her an interview about incidents of domestic violence in his marriage. The paper had paid him between £50,000 and £80,000 for doing so. "It's a good story," she said, "but also it's a way of highlighting these issues."

A year later, when the actor Hugh Grant was arrested in Los Angeles with Divine Brown, who at the time was a prostitute, Brooks's editor, Phil Hall, had said that they must secure Brown's story. With the help of a US-based freelance who had previously been a private investigator, they had found Brown. "The News of the World got there first and she agreed to do a deal with us." She said they had paid Brown $100,000 for an interview, and then spent up to $150,000 more to hide her from rival newspapers.

They had arranged to move Brown to an "oasis resort" in the Nevada desert, but Brown was "very smart" and insisted she be accompanied by her whole family, including cousins. The News of the World had hired a plane to transport them to the resort and then, fearing that the Daily Mail or the Sun might be on their trail, they had moved them to a second resort.

At the time, Brooks had been features editor of the paper and the operation had "blown" her weekly spending limit. That could cause tension, she told the jury, but she had been moved by "the thought of not getting the story and of having to face the editor".

During this time, she said, Rupert Murdoch had come into her office for the first time and given her "kind advice" to take her time and to learn as she went. He had told her he did not like editors who sought publicity, "going on Radio 4 and spouting forth about their opinions". She added: "I think I made the fatal error of telling him that Woman's Own wanted to interview me, and the reaction was extremely grim."

As deputy, she would sometimes stand in for the editor of the News of the World and take calls from Murdoch on a Saturday evening, asking always: "What's going on?" She said the proprietor was "obsessed with news". She went on to describe the annual session in which the four editors of Murdoch's national newspapers would sit outside his office in Los Angeles or New York before going in one by one to try to persuade him to increase their budget.

She told the jury there was intense competition between the news and features departments at the paper. "They really didn't like each other." It was rare for people from the two departments to drink together in the pub. As features editor, she said, she had run a story about the relationship between the Conservative MP Alan Clark and a judge's wife. The story had ended with an appeal to readers to supply more information. When she had come into the office at the beginning of the next week, she had found her phone lines cut. "No one owned up to it, but I always suspected it was the newsdesk."

On another occasion, she discovered that the newsdesk had compiled a file of "any perceived mistakes or stupid stories I had done". The entries in the file had been labelled Twat 1, Twat 2, Twat 3. "It was a tough world."

Competition between the News of the World and the Sun was also intense, she said: when the Sun discovered that News of the World journalists were walking past their office on the way to the canteen, they had frosted all the windows to prevent them looking in.

She said she had got to know Tony Blair in 1996. Her then partner, the actor Ross Kemp, was "a card-carrying member of the Labour party" and had taken her to a rally in Nottingham or Sheffield where she had met Blair and "the original New Labour crew". The following year, the Sun and News of the World had switched their support from Conservative to Labour.

After two years as deputy editor of the Sun, she had returned to the News of the World as editor in January 2000.

Laidlaw asked her whether, during the two and a half years she held that job, she had heard the name of Glenn Mulcaire.

"No," she replied.

"Did anybody speak his name in your presence?"

"No."

"As for phone-hacking – accessing voicemail messages – was any involvement he had in that practice ever drawn to your attention?"

"No. Not at all."

She said that on taking over as editor, she had appointed as investigations editor Greg Miskiw who, the jury have been told, has pleaded guilty to conspiring with Mulcaire to hack phones. Brooks said she had ordered Miskiw to return from a new posting to New York because she thought it was a waste of money for the paper to have a New York bureau. She had a professional relationship with him, she said, but "he was quite insular, had an air of mystery".

Asked if Miskiw's investigation unit had been set up to hack voicemail, she said: "It's just not correct."

Rebekah Brooks denies conspiring to intercept voicemail, one remaining count of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office and two counts of perverting the course of justice. The trial continues.

Nick Davies
theguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on February 20, 2014 14:10 • 17 views

February 19, 2014

Former PM says Brooks email saying he urged NoW inquiry 'to clear her' was just 'advice for transparent process'

Tony Blair secretly advised Rebekah Brooks to launch a "Hutton-style" inquiry into the News of the World six days before her arrest as a suspect in the phone-hacking scandal, it has been revealed in evidence disclosed at the Old Bailey.

According to an email written by Brooks, following an hour-long phone call in July 2011, the former prime minister had also offered to act as an "unofficial adviser" to her, Rupert and James Murdoch on a "between us" basis.

The note from Brooks – sent to James Murdoch – was read out in the phone-hacking trial. In it, she said that Blair had suggested that News International set up an inquiry which would "publish a Hutton-style report" that would "clear you and accept short comings [sic]".

She also wrote that Blair told her the crisis would pass and she should "tough up" and not make any rash decisions. The former prime minister also told News International's then chief executive to "keep strong" and appeared to suggest she should take sleeping pills to keep a clear head.

The email was sent at 4.20pm on Monday 11 July, the day after the News of the World closed and seven days after the Guardian disclosed that the tabloid had hacked the voicemail messages of the missing Surrey schoolgirl Milly Dowler, triggering a chain reaction of further revelations and political outcry.

A day earlier, on Sunday 10 July, Rupert Murdoch had flown into London to deal with the crisis, which coincided with the final stage of his ultimately unsuccessful effort to buy BSkyB.

On the same days as Blair was privately giving Brooks advice on how to endure the public firestorm, the Labour leader Ed Miliband was calling for a judge-led inquiry into News International as part of an unprecedented assault on Murdoch in the House of Commons.

But according to Brooks's note, Blair was suggesting that News International set up an "independent" inquiry using Ken Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions and a lawyer whom Rupert Murdoch had turned to for advice during the phone-hacking scandal.

She said Blair had told her:

"1. Form an independent unit that has an outside junior counsel, Ken Macdonald, a great and good type, a serious forensic criminal barrister, internal counsel, proper fact checkers etc in it. Get them to investigate me and others and publish a Hutton style report.

"2. Publish part one of the report at same time as the police closes its inquiry and clear you and accept short comings and new solutions and process and part two when any trials are over."

Blair's suggestion, as recorded by Brooks, that the inquiry be "Hutton-style" was a reference to Lord Hutton's 2003 inquiry into the suicide of the UN weapons inspector David Kelly. The Hutton report exonerated the government of blame for his death.

The closure of the News of the World after 168 years surprised politicians of all parties, many of whom felt it was Murdoch's last-ditch attempt to salvage his takeover bid for BSkyB. On the day that Brooks sent the email both Miliband and David Cameron were holding press conferences on the scandal, with the prime minister calling on News International to concentrate on "clearing the mess up".

Blair had long enjoyed the political support of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, and the Sun, edited by Brooks between 2003 and 2009, supported him at three general elections. In 2009, after Blair had left office, the tabloid switched to the Conservatives – but the former prime minister enjoyed a close friendship with the Murdochs and Brooks.

Hours after the evidence emerged in court, Blair insisted that his advice had not been based on any direct knowledge of what had happened at News International, or who was culpable.

His office did little to challenge the content of Brooks's email but maintained that the reference to a "Hutton-style" inquiry was a reference to the company setting up a "transparent and independent" process.

"This was Mr Blair simply giving informal advice over the phone," his office said. "He made it absolutely clear to Ms Brooks that, though he knew nothing personally about the facts of the case, in a situation as serious as this it was essential to have a fully transparent and independent process to get to the bottom of what had happened." Blair's office said he had argued that an independent inquiry should be "led by credible people".

Although Macdonald has advised Murdoch in the past he is also seen as fiercely independent. He has been a staunch critic of Blair, especially over his conduct of the Iraq war, writing in the Times in 2009 that Blair's fundamental flaw was his "sycophancy to power".

Brooks's email to James Murdoch followed a note written less than an hour earlier, in which she pointed out that the final issue of the News of the World was close to selling 4m copies. That initial note prompted a short reply from Murdoch, simplysaying: "What are you doing on email?"

Half an hour before Brooks sent her email, the under-pressure Rupert Murdoch took his first step in abandoning the bid for Sky by announcing that he was withdrawing certain undertakings, triggering a referral to the competition authorities. Days later he withdrew the takeover bid entirely.

The Old Bailey also heard that Brooks had discussed a survival plan that would see her "ring-fenced" from the phone-hacking scandal. She had proposed a detailed "plan B" in a separate email to James Murdoch datedthree days earlier – 8 July.

The jury learned on Wednesday that she went on to propose an announcement to the public that News International's previous investigations into phone-hacking allegations fell short.

She suggested that the statement should say: "Our internal investigations were woeful and limited and we failed to hold the right people accountable."

Under the plan, Will Lewis would be promoted to News International deputy chief executive and would go on to the BBC's Andrew Marr show to face questions about the growing scandal. The company would also review all its previous investigations.

Rebekah Brooks denies five charges in the phone-hacking trial. She is due to start her defence on Thursday morning.

Lisa O'CarrollPatrick WintourNick Davies
theguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on February 19, 2014 23:56 • 22 views

Former PM says Brooks email saying he urged NoW inquiry 'to clear her' was just 'advice for transparent process'

Tony Blair secretly advised Rebekah Brooks to launch a "Hutton-style" inquiry into the News of the World six days before her arrest as a suspect in the phone-hacking scandal, it has been revealed in evidence disclosed at the Old Bailey.

According to an email written by Brooks, following an hour-long phone call in July 2011, the former prime minister had also offered to act as an "unofficial adviser" to her, Rupert and James Murdoch on a "between us" basis.

The note from Brooks – sent to James Murdoch – was read out in the phone-hacking trial. In it, she said that Blair had suggested that News International set up an inquiry which would "publish a Hutton-style report" that would "clear you and accept short comings [sic]".

She also wrote that Blair told her the crisis would pass and she should "tough up" and not make any rash decisions. The former prime minister also told News International's then chief executive to "keep strong" and appeared to suggest she should take sleeping pills to keep a clear head.

The email was sent at 4.20pm on Monday 11 July, the day after the News of the World closed and seven days after the Guardian disclosed that the tabloid had hacked the voicemail messages of the missing Surrey schoolgirl Milly Dowler, triggering a chain reaction of further revelations and political outcry.

A day earlier, on Sunday 10 July, Rupert Murdoch had flown into London to deal with the crisis, which coincided with the final stage of his ultimately unsuccessful effort to buy BSkyB.

On the same days as Blair was privately giving Brooks advice on how to endure the public firestorm, the Labour leader Ed Miliband was calling for a judge-led inquiry into News International as part of an unprecedented assault on Murdoch in the House of Commons.

But according to Brooks's note, Blair was suggesting that News International set up an "independent" inquiry using Ken Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions and a lawyer whom Rupert Murdoch had turned to for advice during the phone-hacking scandal.

She said Blair had told her:

"1. Form an independent unit that has an outside junior counsel, Ken Macdonald, a great and good type, a serious forensic criminal barrister, internal counsel, proper fact checkers etc in it. Get them to investigate me and others and publish a Hutton style report.

"2. Publish part one of the report at same time as the police closes its inquiry and clear you and accept short comings and new solutions and process and part two when any trials are over."

Blair's suggestion, as recorded by Brooks, that the inquiry be "Hutton-style" was a reference to Lord Hutton's 2003 inquiry into the suicide of the UN weapons inspector David Kelly. The Hutton report exonerated the government of blame for his death.

The closure of the News of the World after 168 years surprised politicians of all parties, many of whom felt it was Murdoch's last-ditch attempt to salvage his takeover bid for BSkyB. On the day that Brooks sent the email both Miliband and David Cameron were holding press conferences on the scandal, with the prime minister calling on News International to concentrate on "clearing the mess up".

Blair had long enjoyed the political support of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, and the Sun, edited by Brooks between 2003 and 2009, supported him at three general elections. In 2009, after Blair had left office, the tabloid switched to the Conservatives – but the former prime minister enjoyed a close friendship with the Murdochs and Brooks.

Hours after the evidence emerged in court, Blair insisted that his advice had not been based on any direct knowledge of what had happened at News International, or who was culpable.

His office did little to challenge the content of Brooks's email but maintained that the reference to a "Hutton-style" inquiry was a reference to the company setting up a "transparent and independent" process.

"This was Mr Blair simply giving informal advice over the phone," his office said. "He made it absolutely clear to Ms Brooks that, though he knew nothing personally about the facts of the case, in a situation as serious as this it was essential to have a fully transparent and independent process to get to the bottom of what had happened." Blair's office said he had argued that an independent inquiry should be "led by credible people".

Although Macdonald has advised Murdoch in the past he is also seen as fiercely independent. He has been a staunch critic of Blair, especially over his conduct of the Iraq war, writing in the Times in 2009 that Blair's fundamental flaw was his "sycophancy to power".

Brooks's email to James Murdoch followed a note written less than an hour earlier, in which she pointed out that the final issue of the News of the World was close to selling 4m copies. That initial note prompted a short reply from Murdoch, simplysaying: "What are you doing on email?"

Half an hour before Brooks sent her email, the under-pressure Rupert Murdoch took his first step in abandoning the bid for Sky by announcing that he was withdrawing certain undertakings, triggering a referral to the competition authorities. Days later he withdrew the takeover bid entirely.

The Old Bailey also heard that Brooks had discussed a survival plan that would see her "ring-fenced" from the phone-hacking scandal. She had proposed a detailed "plan B" in a separate email to James Murdoch datedthree days earlier – 8 July.

The jury learned on Wednesday that she went on to propose an announcement to the public that News International's previous investigations into phone-hacking allegations fell short.

She suggested that the statement should say: "Our internal investigations were woeful and limited and we failed to hold the right people accountable."

Under the plan, Will Lewis would be promoted to News International deputy chief executive and would go on to the BBC's Andrew Marr show to face questions about the growing scandal. The company would also review all its previous investigations.

Rebekah Brooks denies five charges in the phone-hacking trial. She is due to start her defence on Thursday morning.

Lisa O'CarrollPatrick WintourNick Davies
theguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on February 19, 2014 16:00 • 18 views

January 30, 2014

Lawyer for former NoW editor questions reporter on details of 'love' voicemail sent from Miller to actor Daniel Craig

Andy Coulson was not even in London on the day he supposedly personally listened to an illegally intercepted voicemail in the east London office of the News of the World, an Old Bailey jury heard on Thursday.

Dan Evans, a former Sunday Mirror reporter, who has admitted hacking phones over a seven-year period, told the jury he played Coulson the message – on which, he claimed, Sienna Miller was heard declaring her love for Daniel Craig – in the newspaper's features department "around twilight" on Tuesday 27 September 2005.

In a series of bruising exchanges, Timothy Langdale QC, barrister for Coulson, the former News of the World editor, said: "Mr Coulson was not in the office at all that day. He was not even in London that day. What do you say to that?"

Evans replied that that had always been his memory. "If you are saying that he definitely wasn't there and he was in a different part of the country, then my memory must be flawed. Maybe it was the next day, but my memory has always been that it was the same day. It doesn't alter the fact that the playing of the tape, and the remarks made, happened."

Asked whether he was saying the incident could have occurred on the Wednesday or Thursday instead, Evans replied: "It might have been. My feeling is that it would have been the Wednesday, the earlier date, although clearly my recollection hasn't been perfect on the day that it happened. But happen it did."

The clash came on Evans' fourth day in the witness box at the phone-hacking trial, as Langdale challenged details in his account of the Craig voicemail.

Evans has told the jury that a female he identified as the actor Miller had left a message the previous Saturday evening, saying: "Hi. It's me. Can't speak. I'm at the Groucho with Jude. I love you."

Langdale told him: "Sienna Miller wasn't in the Groucho club on the Saturday."

Evans replied: "Well, you know, the message said 'I'm in the Groucho with Jude'." Evans has said that he hacked the message during the following 48 hours.

Langdale said: "You didn't hack Daniel Craig on the Sunday or the Monday."

Evans: "Yes, I did."

The barrister then asked: "You're sticking to that?"

"I'm not here to make things up. This isn't a fun experience for me," Evans said.

Langdale then showed the jury a schedule of calls to Craig's mobile phone number, which had been made from Evans' mobile or office number. Evans agreed that these were hacks or attempted hacks.

The barrister said that the schedule showed no evidence of a hack on either the Sunday or Monday in question. Evans replied that he also frequently hacked Craig's phone by calling a special voicemail retrieval number, which did not figure on the schedule.

Evans has told the jury that on the Tuesday morning he had played his tape of the voicemail to several journalists, after which it was "all hands to the pumps" as the newspaper moved to flesh out the story.

Langdale told him: "I'm going to suggest to you that nothing of any consequence in terms of mobilising resources or starting work on the story commenced on Tuesday the 27th."

Evans replied: "I do not accept what you say."

Langdale then showed the jury internal emails which contained no reference to Evans working on the story, and phone records which showed that on the Tuesday morning Evans had hacked the voicemail of Jade Goody's partner, Jeff Brazier.

"This is your big day. You come into the office, wagging your tail, with this big story. What are you doing hacking Jeff Brazier?"

Evans said it was common to work on multiple stories at any one time.

Langdale pressed him on phone records showing that he had hacked Craig's phone later in the week, at a time when other reporters were working on the story about the James Bond actor's relationship with Miller. "Is it the case that you were trying to get information yourself to try and get in on the story yourself?

"No," said Evans. "I was already in on it."

Langdale asked why he had hacked Craig's phone on the Friday afternoon immediately before and after knocking on the actor's door to confront him with the story. Langdale suggested that this was very risky.

Evans replied: "I think with the benefit of hindsight it clearly wasn't wise, but at the time there was a sense at the News of the World that we were pretty much untouchable. There was an arrogance in the paper which was probably led by the editor and his attitude."

Langdale also challenged Evans over the detail of an earlier story in which he reported that Miller had been in tears over reports that tthe actor Law had had an affair with their nanny.

The story, suggested Langdale, "had nothing to do with any voicemail hack"; it came from another reporter's source.

Evans told the jury that he had heard a voicemail, "cleaned it up, sanitised it" and then added "tabloid fluff", inventing "plausible quotes" from unnamed sources.

Evans has pleaded guilty to two counts of intercepting communications, at the Sunday Mirror and News of the World, one count of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office, and one count of perverting the course of justice.

Coulson denies one count of conspiring to intercept communications and one count of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office. The trial continues.

Nick Davies
theguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on January 30, 2014 11:04 • 28 views

Nick Davies's Blog

Nick Davies
Nick Davies isn't a Goodreads Author (yet), but he does have a blog, so here are some recent posts imported from his feed.
Follow Nick Davies's blog with rss.