Tuesday 20 March 2018

Plea to jurors at NOTW hacking trial

Rebekah Brooks arrives at the Old Bailey court house in London. Photo: Luke MacGregor/Reuters
Rebekah Brooks arrives at the Old Bailey court house in London. Photo: Luke MacGregor/Reuters
Rebekah Brooks and her husband Charlie
Clive Goodman
Andy Coulson. Photo: Oli Scarff
Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks arrives at the Old Bailey in London
Rebekah Brooks with husband Charlie at the Old Bailey yesterday. Reuters

Emily Pennink

Jurors in the hacking trial were urged to ignore the "downright cruelty and vitriol" surrounding the case when they consider verdicts on Rebekah Brooks.

In his closing speech, the former News International chief executive's lawyer Jonathan Laidlaw QC made a plea for them to "focus on the evidence" alone.

He invited the jury to imagine viewing the trial as a loved one in the public gallery.

"From your position as a loved one you will be all too painfully aware the case has been heard against the backdrop of significant attention from the media.

"Opinions have been expressed with views running from criticism to comment, through inaccuracy and bias, to downright cruelty and vitriol.

"From up there you would worry about the possible impact on the jury. Can anybody be independent enough, strong enough, to avoid being influenced?

"Your fear would be whatever is done and achieved for her from the courtroom, she is starting at a disadvantage some yards behind the starting line and cannot win.

"Worse still, as you watch this trial unfold you have seen the prosecution construct a case not on direct evidence but around inference."

The lawyer said the prosecution had been based on "theory first, evidence later".

He said: "Every time one theory has been contradicted..you have seen the prosecution change its case - twisting and turning to try and find any way to make themselves right.

"We have seen police officers mislead in order to protect the ultimate prosecution theory in this case - Rebekah Brooks must be guilty no matter what."

He went on: "This case has been described as the trial of the century. Much nonsense, complete nonsense, has been spoken about these proceedings and awful things have been said about Rebekah Brooks herself over the last few years."

But he said Brooks sought no "special treatment", just that the jury to be "fair-minded" and give "complete focus on the evidence".

He said there was "no smoking gun" to suggest Brooks was guilty and the case against her was "circumstantial".

Mr Laidlaw told jurors that private detective Glenn Mulcaire's hacking was "rare" during Brooks's editorship of the News of the World.

The evidence showed only one story published from hacking during Brooks's time at the helm of the Sunday tabloid, he said.

That was the Milly Dowler story which was published when she was on holiday in Dubai thousands of miles away.

"Ask yourself the question - can it be a coincidence that in her three years editing the NotW there is not a single phone hacking story in a paper she edited," he said.

And she did not take hacking to the Sun when she left the now defunct NotW to edit its daily sister paper, the Old Bailey jury was told.

Mr Laidlaw said: "The prosecution evidence has fallen a long way short of proving hacking was prolific under Mrs Brooks. That matters a lot. If hacking rarely occurred under Mrs Brooks, then the prosecution simply cannot prove from the volume of hacking that she must have known."

Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire, along with her six co-defendants, denies all the charges against her.

Mr Laidlaw pointed out telephone data which showed Brooks had no contact with anyone at the NotW before Mulcaire was tasked to hack murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's voicemails in 2002 while she was in Dubai.

He told jurors: "There is simply no evidence at all that anybody at the NotW disturbed her holiday about anything prior to the 11th April, let alone consulted her about a hacking of Milly Dowler's phone.

"On the evidence, they did not consult her and if there is one thing you can be confident about in this case it is Rebekah Brooks is not guilty of the phone hacking of Milly's phone. Whether she would have agreed to it or not is almost academic. They did not consult her."

Press Association

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