Day 102, Part 1: Rebekah Brooks was trying to save her job when she hatched a plan to hide her notebooks from detectives at the peak of the phone hacking scandal in July 2011, the Old Bailey heard today.
Prosecuting Counsel Andrew Edis QC told the phone hacking trial that emails from the week the News of the World closed supported his claim that Mrs Brooks was concerned about her future and the escalating criminal inquiry into hacking when she took part in a plot to thwart the police.
Mrs Brooks, former chief executive of News International, is accused of conspiring with her PA Cheryl Carter to remove her journalistic notebooks from News International’s archive on 8 July 2011, and of plotting with her husband Charlie and NI’s security chief, Mark Hanna, to hide bags from police nine days later.
She is also charged with conspiring to hack phones during her editorship of the News of the World between 2000 and 2003 and conspiring to commit misconduct in public office while she edited the Sun between 2003 and 2009.
Beginning the second day of his closing speech, Mr Edis suggested the attempts to hide evidence were part of a “connected” series of events in which Mrs Brooks was trying to cover up her role in criminal newsgathering techniques.
He quoted her email to News Corp boss James Murdoch on 7 July 2011 in which she had suggested that an internal inquiry could blame the hacking scandal on the former NI boss, Les Hinton.
Mr Edis told the jury:
“It’s quite important because it tells you something about her state of mind… what was she doing. Well, she was trying to keep her job, we suggest. And if we’re right about what we’re saying about phone hacking, she needed to ensure that the police didn’t get her hands on documents. There’s no doubt that this defendant had as an important factor in her mind ongoing criminal investigations…. She knows that she’s on the agenda of any sensible investigation.”
He summarised her email to Mr Murdoch: “These are plans for the future. The subtext is… ‘We’ll get through this so I can keep my job and be useful to you’.”
Although Mrs Carter had claimed the seven boxes she withdrew from NI’s archive on 8 July 2011 were mostly her own beauty cuttings, Mr Edis said it was “plain” that she had requested her boss’s notebooks.
She was “not able to control” what News International’s archivist Nick Mayes wrote down about her request for them: ”Please return Rebekah’s notes.”
“What was she asking for?” Mr Edis asked the jury.
“She was asking for Rebekah’s notebooks. What was in the boxes? Rebekah’s notebooks, we say. It’s plain English again.”
Mrs Carter’s claim to the police that Mrs Brooks had been away when she requested the boxes and that a spiral notebook and a jotting pad were among Rebekah’s few possessions in them had been “lies,” he said.
Turning to the second charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, Mr Edis said there was attempt by the defendants on 17 July 2011 to foil the Metropolitan Police detectives about to arrest Mrs Brooks.
In his evidence, Mr Brooks said that he was trying to hide bags – found behind bins below the Brooks’s apartment in Chelsea Harbour, London – because he was embarrassed police would leak his pornography collection to the Guardian.
Mr Edis said the concealment of the bags was part of an attempt, “orchestrated” by Mr Brooks with his wife’s knowledge, to hide or dispose of potentially relevant material from officers.
“Damaging material was to be destroyed or hidden,” Mr Edis told the Old Bailey.
“We can’t say exactly what’s gone missing because it’s gone missing a successful conspiracy to pervert the course of justice is still a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.”
All seven defendants in the seven month-long case deny all charges. The case continues.