Day 16: A senior lawyer today said today that it was “possible” he had given advice to Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper group on phone hacking. Justin Walford, editorial legal counsel at News UK, who was being asked for a second time whether he had done so, went on to say: “I cannot remember.”
Mr Walford, the Sun’s lawyer, who occasionally deputised for the News of the World’s primary lawyer Tom Crone, was giving evidence as a witness at the start of the fourth week of the phone hacking trial.
Asked by Timothy Langdale QC, for Andy Coulson, whether he had ever given advice on the interception of voicemails prior to the jailing of the News of the World’s royal reporter Clive Goodman in 2007, he answered: “No”.
Asked whether he was aware of any story based on phone hacking, he replied: “I can’t remember anything that made me think that.”
Asked again by Jonathan Laidlaw, QC, for Rebekah Brooks, whether he could remember any story based on phone hacking, Mr Walford replied: “I can’t remember any such story”.
However asked again whether he remembered being asked to advise on phone hacking, Mr Walford gave a slightly different answer.
He said: “I cannot.” He added: “It is possible that I have. But to the best of my recollection I cannot remember being asked to advise on it, either at the News of the World or at the Sun.”
Mr Walford, who was a lawyer at Express Newspaper for 20 years before joining Mr Murdoch’s News International group in 2005, said during his evidence that journalists were “very protective” of their sources.
In answer to Mr Laidlaw’s question about professional standards at the Sun, he said they were high. “Obviously there are many people who don’t like the Sun,” he said. “But I think most fair people, particularly if they look at the staff, would say they are highly professional.”
Mr Walford, who primarily gives advice at the Sun, described Mrs Brooks, its editor from 2003 to 2009, as “demanding.” As Mrs Brooks sat in the dock, Mr Walford was asked by her lawyer to elaborate on the remark.
He told the Old Bailey: “She’s a strong personality. She has strong views and she expects hard work and everyone pulling in the same direction to get stories in the paper.”
If he made legal marks on a story, he explained, Mrs Brooks would want to know why.
Mrs Brooks, Mr Coulson and the other defendants have pleaded not guilty to all charges. The trial continues.