Tuesday 25 November 2014

'Payment sought for wife-swap tale' - News of the World hacking trial

Emily Pennink, Press Association

Published 10/03/2014 | 12:35

Rebekah Brooks was asked to approve cash payments to public officials for stories such as a wife-swapping mayor, the phone-hacking trial has heard.

She was confronted in the witness box at the Old Bailey about a string of emails addressed to her from journalists while she was editor at the Sun, many asking her to OK payments.

One concerning a story about a wife-swapping mayor from Tetbury in Gloucestershire specifically sought Brooks' approval to give money to a serving police officer who had provided "numerous tips in the past", the court was told.

Others did not give the source but may have involved officials such as serving police or Army personnel, the jury heard.

Stories included Prince William pictured at a party wearing a bikini; a car crash involving a Sandhurst officer; and a story about model Kate Moss and singer Pete Doherty, the court was told.

Brooks told the trial she would only have sanctioned payment to a serving public official for a story relating to his work if there was a very strong public interest.

As an example, she mentioned the recent story about police corruption in the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry.

But prosecutor Andrew Edis QC said: "None of these people writing emails say anything about the public interest to you. Nobody says 'Listen, boss, it would be in the public interest to make this payment because of A, B, C, D and E'?"

Brooks responded that she did not remember the emails but insisted that senior journalists would have known about public interest.

Mr Edis asked: "Would you have paid the money without knowing if it was a public official?"

Brooks said: "No."

Mr Edis went on: "Did you care how your journalists were dealing with public officials?"

Brooks replied: "Yes.

Mr Edis asked: "Did you care enough to ask them?"

Brooks said: "I think it was a constant dialogue."

Mr Edis suggested that money was transferred to Thomas Cook to be collected by a journalist in cash and handed over to anonymous sources to avoid a paper trail.

Brooks said this system was often used for convenience when journalists were abroad in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq.

"And Cirencester?" Mr Edis asked, referring to the mayor story.

She replied: "It might be just geography."

Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire, denies all the charges against her, including conspiring to commit misconduct in public office.

Press Association

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