Eleven police were involved in a dawn raid on Rebekah Brooks’s Oxfordshire home just six weeks after her baby was born, the phone-hacking trial has heard.
The former News International chief executive, who was not notified of the search, raised concerns with officers about the impact on the baby who “had been born prematurely”, the jury were told by Jonathan Laidlaw QC, counsel for Brooks.
A detective investigating phone hacking has been asked in court if police had conducted a “Carry On”-style search of Rebekah Brooks’s office on the day she resigned as News International chief executive.
Officers from the Metropolitan police’s Operation Weeting seized computers and other IT material from her office but did not search the cabinets in the area outside it where her secretaries kept her business and personal records.
Detective Constable Alan Pritchard told the court that officers had been confined in their search because of a prior arrangement with News International executive Simon Greenberg, a former head of communications and one of the members of the management standards committee.
“Mrs Brooks is removed, almost marched out of the building. This stuff is there when you arrive later that evening and not a bit of it recovered by the police?” Laidlaw said to Pritchard.
Pritchard replied that he was had no instruction to search the PAs’ files. “The area we had consent to search was her office and that was what the search was confined to.” He said he was not included in the arrangements made prior to the search and the correct person to question would be the head of Operation Weeting, Detective Superintendent Mark Ponting.
Asked by the prosecution who had made this arrangement with police, Pritchard replied: “Simon Greenberg”.
News International restricted the search area and, as a result, nothing was found.
The Leveson Inquiry dismissed a police intelligence report that detailed an apparently corrupt relationship between a very senior former officer and the News of the World.
The classified document, dated April 2006, alleged that the officer was obtaining highly confidential information on decisions taken by Lord Blair when he was the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and passing it on to the now defunct Sunday tabloid.
Robert Jay, the lead counsel to the Leveson Inquiry, who is now a judge, had stated that Scotland Yard did not provide him with a copy of the intelligence report until April 2012 – six weeks after it could have been raised publicly with Lord Blair in the hearings. Mr Jay did say, though, that he had been aware of the report’s existence earlier.
As Tom Watson MP, says: “It appears that the murky relationships between senior police officers and News of the World (NoTW) executives have still not been properly investigated. This should be looked into by a parliamentary select committee.”
The prosecution in the phone-hacking trial lobbed an emotional bombshell into the case by stating that Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson had a secret extra-marital affair between 1998 and 2004, whose existence had been revealed in a highly charged note that the crown argued implied an intense bond between the two.
Andrew Edis QC said that the jury needed to know about the clandestine relationship because the two former editors face charges of conspiracy to hack phones. “The first question, therefore, is how well did they know each other? How much did they trust each other? The fact that they were in this relationship, which was a secret, means that they trusted each other quite a lot with at least that secret. That’s why we are telling you about it,” the prosecuting QC said.
At that time, Coulson had been married to his wife Eloise Patrick since 2000, and Brooks had been married to the TV actor Ross Kemp since 2002. Brooks was editor of the Sun, and Coulson was editor of the News of the World; previously Coulson had been her deputy at the News of the World, when she edited the Sunday tabloid between 2000 and 2003.
Coulson’s vetting when he worked for Cameron would have uncovered this, so we can assume Cameron knew.
Three former news editors from the News of the World have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to hack mobile phones during a six-year period when Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson were editing the Sunday title, it was disclosed in court.
The two high-flying tabloid journalists were accused of knowing about voicemail interception at the newspaper, of plotting to pay money to corrupt public officials – and, in the case of Brooks, participating in “a cover-up” when concerns about hacking became public in 2011.
Opening the Old Bailey trial of Brooks, Coulson and six others, crown counsel Andrew Edis QC said the guilty pleas meant that the original claim made by the tabloid’s publisher, News International, that the hacking was the work of just one reporter, Clive Goodman, was demonstrably incorrect.
The three former News of the World news editors who had pleaded guilty to the interception of voicemails were Greg Miskiw, Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup. Edis told the jury that the paper’s specialist hacker, Glenn Mulcaire, had separately admitted intercepting the messages of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
And so it begins.
The Independent has learnt the Metropolitan Police has opened an “active investigation” into the corporate liabilities of the UK newspaper group – recently rebranded News UK – which could have serious implications for the ability of its parent company News Corp to operate in the United States. One of Rupert Murdoch’s most senior lawyers has been interviewed under caution on behalf of the company and two other very senior figures have been officially cautioned for corporate offences. John Turnbull, who works on News Corp’s Management and Standards Committee (MSC) which co-ordinates the company’s interactions with the Metropolitan Police, answered formal questions from detectives earlier this year.
The development has caused pandemonium at the upper echelons of the Murdoch media empire. Shortly afterwards, executives in America ordered that the company dramatically scale back its co-operation with the Metropolitan Police.
Finally, the really serious stuff. Not just journalists but the corporate entity, with all the ramifications for US broadcasting licenses.
Rupert Murdoch is to be invited to appear before a parliamentary committee for a fresh grilling over alleged illegal payments to public officials by the Sun newspaper.
MPs on the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, which quizzed the media tycoon and his son James two years ago about the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, voted on Tuesday to ask him to return in the autumn to answer questions over a meeting he had with more than 20 Sun journalists who have been arrested in connection with alleged unlawful payments to police and other public officials for stories.
Earlier in the tape, Murdoch tells the Sun journalists: “I don’t know of anybody, or anything, that did anything that wasn’t being done across Fleet Street and wasn’t the culture.”
The US authorities take a dim view of corporate bribery. It will be interesting to see how they react to the recording.