Day 63, Part 1: Rebekah Brooks knew that the deputy prime minister John Prescott and other high-profile individuals were potential victims of phone hacking in 2006, five years before News International stopped blaming voicemail interception on a single royal editor, the Old Bailey heard today.
Mrs Brooks agreed that she had been told by police in September 2006 that there was evidence of the voicemail interception of several non-royal targets including Lord Prescott, his mistress Tracy Temple, publicist Max Clifford and the actor Hugh Grant and his then girlfriend Jemima Khan.
The names had been stated in a memo sent by a News International executive to the paper’s then editor, Andy Coulson, which relayed the contents of a conversation between Mrs Brooks and a senior Metropolitan Police detective.
Detective Chief Inspector Keith Surtees was visiting the then Sun editor to see if she would be willing to give evidence in the investigation into phone hacking at the sister paper the News of the World, because she herself had been a victim.
Until now, the identity of the individuals referred to in the email had been blanked out at the phone hacking trial.
However, they were named by Andrew Edis QC, as he began his cross-examination of Mrs Brooks, during her ninth day in the witness box.
Mr Edis challenged Mrs Brooks that she had abided by the company’s rogue reporter defence – which only changed in January 2011 with the sacking of a NoW executive – that the only News of the World staff hacker was royal editor Clive Goodman.
Mr Goodman was jailed in January 2007 for accessing the voicemails of three aides to the Royal Family, while the paper’s contracted private detective, Glenn Mulcaire, was jailed for hacking the aides and five non-royal individuals.
However, Mr Edis pointed out, the memo relaying Mrs Brooks’s conversation with DCI Surtees in September 2006, which stated the police believed there were 100-110 victims, named Lord Prescott, Mrs Temple, the Labour cabinet minister Tessa Jowell, “Max”, Hugh Grant and “Jemima.”
Mr Edis asked Mrs Brooks: “They [the police] told you about Tessa Jowell being hacked?”, to which she said: “I think that’s right.”
Mr Edis continued: “They told you that John Prescott and Tracy Temple were hacking victims?”
Mrs Brooks replied: “I think they said potential victims.”
Mr Edis asked: “Did they suggest to that Jemima and Hugh Grant were also victims?”
Mrs Brooks replied: “I think they must have done, yes.”
He continued: “So it isn’t just numbers of victims, but it was names too?”, to which Mrs Brooks said: “Some names, yes, but they were still investigating.”
Mrs Brooks, chief executive of News International between 2009 and 2011, denies conspiring to hack phones. The case continues.