Rebekah Brooks appeared behind a high glass screen in the dock yesterday, sitting alongside her husband Charlie and four other co-defendants, including her long-serving personal assistant Cheryl Carter.
It was one of the most dramatic moments so far in the phone-hacking scandal which has embroiled News International and led to Ms Brooks being charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Until recently the most powerful woman in the British media, she was listed on the police charge sheet as Rebekah Mary Brooks, "unemployed of Churchill, Oxfordshire".
In court she only spoke to confirm her address and date of birth before being told that she and her co-defendants would be tried at Southwark Crown Court on June 22.
Her appearance at Westminster Magistrates Court was the subject of an extraordinary level of interest. Although some of her co-defendants were forced to stand in a long queue and be photographed by the media as the court opened for the day, Ms Brooks (43) showed typical media savvy by arriving late and being whisked into the building by police officers. She and her husband are accused of conspiring to pervert the course of justice by attempting "to conceal documents, computers and other electronic devices" from the Met's Operation Weeting team, which is investigating allegations of phone hacking and bribery of public officials at News International.
Ms Brooks, the company's former chief executive and previously editor of the 'Sun' and the now defunct 'News of the World', is being represented by Hugo Keith, a human rights barrister with a special interest in extradition cases. Mr Keith has previously fought the corner of clients including Muslim cleric Abu Hamza and Italian ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
In the dock, Mr and Ms Brooks were joined by Ms Carter (48), of Chelmsford, Essex, and three other co-defendants. Ms Brooks's chauffeur Paul Edwards (47), of west London; Mark Hanna (49), a security consultant from Buckingham; and Daryl Jorsling (39), of Aldershot, also face similar charges.
Prosecutors allege that she removed boxes of material from the News International archive and tried to conceal documents, computers and other material from the multi-million-pound Scotland Yard investigation into allegations of illegal activities at the publisher.
Ms Brooks is banned from contacting any of her co-defendants apart from her husband either directly or indirectly, including by text message or social networking sites, to prevent the obstruction of justice. (© Independent News Service)