Day 63, Part 2: Rebekah Brooks did not inquire into the scale of phone hacking at the News of the World while chief executive of News International despite fresh evidence suggesting the practice was widespread, the Old Bailey heard today.
In answer to chief prosecutor Andrew Edis QC at the phone hacking trial, Mrs Brooks said she believed that previous action by the newspaper group was sufficient because the evidence was “out there”.
She admitted however that she had offered jailed phone hacker Clive Goodman a job at the Sun and authorized a £1m deal with hacking victim Max Clifford to protect the company’s reputation.
Asked her response on finding out in 2006 that the private detective Glenn Mulcaire was hacking phones, Mrs Brooks said she had not asked executives about his contract with the NoW, which began in 2001 under her editorship.)
Mr Edis asked her: “Did you ask anybody what he had been doing under your editorship of the News of the World?”
“Not specifically, no,” she replied.
Challenged whether she had ever asked what he was being paid for, she mentioned her Sarah’s Law campaign, saying: “I didn’t need to. He was working as a private detective… we had lots of private detectives trying to find paedophiles in the community”.
Mr Edis asked why Mrs Brooks had offered Mr Goodman a job shortly after he had been released from prison for intercepting the voicemails of three royal aides.
The previous month Mrs Brooks had told the Press Complaints Commission that any Sun journalist who broke the law was liable to instant dismissal.
The offer of a position at the Sun – either writing royal supplements or training to be a sub-editor – was made by the paper’s then editor in April 2007 as Mr Goodman threatened to bring an employment tribunal case against the company which would be heard in public.
Mr Edis asked Mrs Brooks: “Did you see any conflict between what you said to the PCC about journalists who broke the law and you offering a job to Mr Goodman when he had just come out of prison?”
Mrs Brooks, who edited the Sun between 2003 and 2009, replied: “I don’t think I saw it like that, but I see the point.”
“Why didn’t you see it like that?” the prosecutor asked, to which she told the court: “I was being asked to put an end to an employment tribunal by offering Mr Goodman a job, and I remember being mindful that even though I was happy to offer him a job that it wasn’t to be a reporting role or in the newsroom.”
She said that she wanted to prevent Mr Goodman – who was alleging that hacking had gone wider at the NoW – from damaging the company’s reputation, in a plan agreed with then chief executive Les Hinton.
Asked, then, whether the offer was intended to end Mr Goodman’s allegations and “shut him up,” Mrs Brooks told the court: “I was told that they were unfounded.”
Asked “By whom,” she said: “By Mr [then chief executive Les] Hinton.”
The court has heard that Mr Goodman turned down the job offer but dropped his employment claim after negotiating a financial settlement.
Mrs Brooks said that although she had asked how much the settlement had been for, Mr Hinton had told her that its terms were “confidential.”
“I was the editor of the Sun. It was a corporate thing,” she said.
On becoming chief executive designate of News International in the summer of July 2009 she said had taken no action following the Guardian’s story revealing a £700,000 settlement with phone hacking victim Gordon Taylor, nor the release of the “For Neville” email of messages hacked from his phone.
Asked what checks she had made the company’s servers for information about the ‘For Neville’ email, Mrs Brooks replied:
“None. The investigations into this and the disclosure of the statement were all without my knowledge and by the time I became chief executive this was all out in the public domain.”
Mr Edis asked: “Did you do any investigations at all into phone hacking when you became chief executive [in September 2009]?”
“No,” replied Mrs Brooks, who is charged with conspiring to hack phones.
“Why not?” asked Mr Edis.
Mrs Brooks said: “I think at the time in 2009 the Gordon Taylor issue had already been done and out there and there was no need for me to do an investigation.”
She said she had done a £1m deal with Mr Clifford because his civil claim for hacking would have resulted in Mr Mulcaire naming who at the NoW had tasked him to hack phones which, she said, would have damaged the company “reputationally and financially.”
Mrs Brooks and the other six defendants deny all charges. The case continues