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Thursday 2 October 2014

Rebekah Brooks's enemies are sore losers over verdict

"Rupert Murdoch's right-hand woman was found not guilty on all counts. It's time her enemies got over that."

Published 27/07/2014 | 02:30

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Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks arrives at the Old Bailey courthouse in London in this February 28, 2014 file photo.  To match Special Report BRITAIN-HACKING/BROOKS    REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett/Files   (BRITAIN - Tags: CRIME LAW MEDIA POLITICS)
Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks arrives at the Old Bailey courthouse in London in this February 28, 2014 file photo. To match Special Report BRITAIN-HACKING/BROOKS REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett/Files (BRITAIN - Tags: CRIME LAW MEDIA POLITICS)
Rebekah Brooks

I have been for decades, and remain, a loyal reader of Private Eye, but a satirical magazine shouldn't lose its sense of humour, as it did when Rebekah Brooks was found not guilty on all counts of conspiring to phone-hack, pay for information from public officials and pervert the course of justice.

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The cover at least was funny. Under the headline "Phone Hacking Shock Verdict", was a photograph of Brooks with Andy Coulson, her ex-lover and successor as editor of the News of the World (NotW): he was grinning vacuously and she was saying, "I got away with Murdoch". Underneath was the legend: "Inside: Andy Coulson. Not Inside: Rebekah Brooks".

Inside, the magazine was short on merriment. As a reader's letter put it in the following issue: "I realise that the verdict on Mrs Brooks was not what you wanted, but you might have taken a lesson from Brazil's football fans in coping with disappointment in a dignified manner. Instead, we had six leaden pages of 'we wuz robbed'…Please man up."

Then, the other night, friends took me to the National Theatre to see Great Britain, an entertaining if rather slight comedy centring on a smart, charming, unscrupulous young female news editor who works on a tabloid where disgraceful shenanigans in pursuit of scandal and influence demonstrate the cynical collusion, in all sorts of bad things, of press, police and politicians. So as not to prejudice the trials, it had been written and rehearsed in secret. When it was unveiled to the public after the verdicts, it all seemed a bit anti-climactic.

Of course, had Brooks been found guilty, open season on her would have been declared everywhere and those who hated her would have been whooping it up in an orgy of schadenfreude. As it is, they have been reflecting wistfully on what might have been.

All I can add is that I followed the case very closely, that verdicts are supposed to relate to the evidence produced in court, and that the jury understood that - which is why Brooks got off and Coulson didn't.

The anti-Murdoch press has been frustrated, cross and straw-clutching also. At present, they're toying with a rumour that Rebekah's husband Charlie is contemplating running as a UKIP candidate in next year's general election because he's disappointed with the lack of support for Rebekah shown in the bad times by their friend David Cameron. And there's an allegation that in 2007, when the head of the horse-training centre of the Metropolitan Police was advised to lend a retired horse to Ms Brooks, she told him that David Cameron would be riding it. That he rode it before he became prime minister is already known, so this is a pretty dull story.

It comes from another source that also had to wait for the verdicts. Last week, the respectable Independent on Sunday began running extracts from the forthcoming The News Machine. In this book the paper's deputy editor, James Hanning, tells the story of 'Hackergate' and its central figure, the mysterious Glenn Mulcaire (now 43), the brilliant private investigator whose interception of royal phone messages landed him in jail in 2007.

In his 20s, Mulcaire had discovered he had an unusual talent for investigative work and became adept at such dark arts for finding out the whereabouts and
the business of others as tracing, tracking, blagging and hacking. The NotW was delighted with him and took him on at a huge salary. He says he was motivated 
not just by money but by an ambition to assist with campaigns to expose paedophiles and terrorists, but that he was
at the bottom of the food chain and came under irresistible pressure to extend his talents to investigate innocent celebrities. Mulcaire - who is now bankrupt and has been virtually unemployable - was among those ex-NotW employees who spilled the beans on Coulson and were treated with some sympathy by the trial judge.

He is hoping that cooperating with this book may bring him some measure of rehabilitation.

Andy Coulson, according to Private Eye, has been attacked in Belmarsh Prison by a criminal who was once done over in the NotW and is sharing a cell with his ex-chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, who insisted in court that Coulson was wrong to claim he had ordered an end to hacking.

Meanwhile, Mazher Mahmood, aka the "Fake Sheik" or "King of the Sting", another ex-employee of the NotW, has now been suspended by The Sun after a judge threw out a case involving the singer Tulisa Contostavlos on the grounds that Mahmood had lied about her. It is reported that the Crown Prosecution Service is to examine his credibility as a witness in 30 past cases.

Private Eye can wipe away the tears. The Murdoch press isn't yet out of the legal woods.


www.ruthdudleyedwards.com @ruthde

Sunday Independent

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