independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Brooks: It's impossible to know source of every story

Former News of the World editor begins fightback in hacking trial

Former News International Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks and her husband Charlie leave the Old Bailey courthouse
Former News International Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks and her husband Charlie leave the Old Bailey courthouse

Some 33 months on from her arrest, and after sitting through almost four months of evidence, the former chief executive of News International has had an opportunity to speak in court.

The jury was warned in the Old Bailey yesterday that the phone-hacking trial was only halfway through. After attacking the prosecution's case as being a mess, Rebekah Brooks' counsel Jonathan Laidlaw told the jury Mrs Brooks was not on trial for being a tabloid editor.

Wearing a blue dress with a white cardigan, she told the court she had been born in Warrington in 1968. Her father was a gardener, her mother a PA. She helped the family look after her elderly grandparents. She had a Saturday job.

The court heard of work experience, aged 14, on the local 'Warrington Guardian' before her first staff job, at 18, came at Eddie Shah's new paper, 'The Post'. By now her parents had divorced.

But in 1988, the newspaper flopped. The silver-lining was journalists returning to their old jobs at 'News of the World' and "putting in a good word" for her.

Her voice from the witness box was slow, precise and clear. She told how she went from office runner to researcher before moving up the NOTW ranks to become deputy features editor in 1994.

A year later, the court heard, she was made deputy editor of the paper.

One story showcased her leadership. The actor Hugh Grant was caught with a prostitute in Los Angeles. The NOTW wanted the story. So did every other tabloid. Mrs Brooks revealed that she spent $250,000 finding the call girl, Divine Brown, and flying her and her family to a remote luxury retreat.

She found herself in charge on the week the IRA bombed Canary Wharf. She said that it was at this time that her contact with Rupert Murdoch increased.

She described to the court her first meetings with the "New Labour crew" in 1995: Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell, his wife Fiona Miller. She became editor of News of the World in 2000.

Mrs Brooks – who denies charges of involvement in conspiracy to phone hack, conspiracy to bribe public officials, and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice – told the court she had never heard the name Glen Mulcaire, nor knew of any of the practices the private detective was later to become associated with.

INSTRUMENTAL

The court heard how she was young, in charge of a large organisation, and the managing editor, Stuart Kuttner, who had been instrumental in promoting her, reminded her when she took charge: "You are my 17th editor, my dear." Mr Kuttner is accused of conspiracy to phone hack. He denies the charges against him.

Over the 110 editions of the NOTW that Mrs Brooks edited, the court heard that each paper contained 200 stories. She said she was not always told where a story came from, or what its sources were. "Only the reporter or the department head may know," she said, adding: "It's impossible for an editor to know every source for every story."

Mrs Brooks has more to say as the case continues. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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