independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson 'oversaw decade of illegal activity at tabloids', court told

Brooks and Coulson affair key to conspiracy, court told

Rebekah Brooks and husband Charlie leave the Old Bailey court house in London

NEW allegations of the manner in which Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson oversaw phone hacking and corruption at two of Britain's biggest newspapers emerged at the Old Bailey yesterday.

The pair who maintained a clandestine relationship were accused of overseeing a decade of illegal activity at 'The Sun and 'The News of the World'.

As the couple sat side by side in the dock of Court 12, neither showed any emotion, as intimate details of their long-running affair were laid bare.

Mrs Brooks' current husband, the racehorse trainer, Charlie (50), whom she married in 2009, sat several places away from her in the dock, separated by other defendants in the case.

The jury heard it was unclear whether Mr Coulson, who went on to become prime minister David Cameron's director of communications, had ever seen a letter revealing their affair before.

Among the allegations heard yesterday were claims that the now defunct Sunday tabloid used phone hacking to obtain details of the private lives of a string of cabinet ministers, including David Blunkett, the then deputy prime minister Lord Prescott and former Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell.

Jurors were also told how in the "dog-eat-dog world of journalism", reporters went to great lengths to spy on the opposition, hacking the phones of 'Mail on Sunday' staff in order to spoil their scoops.

It was also revealed how "accomplished blagger" and phone hacker Glenn Mulcaire showed news editor Ian Edmondson, how to hack into the voicemail messages of Britain's royal family member, Lord Freddie Windsor.

The court was told that the newspaper was hacking the voicemails of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler (pictured) while at the same time trying to secure an exclusive interview with her parents.

The jury also heard a recording of Glenn Mulcaire "blagging" mobile phone PINs in order to access voicemails, from an employee at O2.

Andrew Edis QC, prosecuting, explained that the affair was relevant to the phone hacking trial because it showed the closeness of Mr Coulson and Mrs Brooks and therefore explained how they both were culpable of the alleged conspiracy.He told jurors: "The point that I'm going to make in relation to that letter is that throughout the relevant period, what Mr Coulson knew Mrs Brooks knew too, and what Mrs Brooks knew Mr Coulson knew too."That's the point because it is clear from that letter that as of February 2004, they had been having an affair which had lasted at least six years. So that takes us right back to 1998 which is the whole of the conspiracy period.

PRIVACY

"Let me be clear about why I am telling you this, it isn't to intrude into their privacy – it has that effect of course. It is of no real significance to this prosecution how people choose to behave, this isn't in any way a moral judgment." Mr Edis read the final part of the letter to jurors to illustrate just how close Coulson and Brooks had been during their affair. Mrs Brooks wrote that finding out about Coulson's life from others "fills me with absolute dread".

"I assume until I hear otherwise we will keep our professional relationship at a minimum and avoid if possible without being awkward," she wrote. Mrs Brooks and Mr Coulson both deny charges of conspiracy to hack phones and conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office. Mrs Brooks also denies two counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The court heard Mrs Brooks spoke openly about phone hacking in celebrity circles and even discussed how it was done during her time as a tabloid editor, her trial has heard.

The jury was told that Mrs Brooks explained the technique to Eimear Cook, the former wife of the golfer Colin Montgomerie, and told her this had been used to obtain a story about Sir Paul McCartney and his then wife Heather Mills.

Mr Edis said she had discussed that hacking was rife in the industry over lunch with Ms Cook in 2005.

(©Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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