Concluding his closing speech, Jonathan Laidlaw, QC, referred to a text Mrs Brooks received in July 2011 days after the Guardian had revealed the hacking of Milly Dowler.
Mrs Brooks’ friend Kath Raymond said some of the comments the NI boss was receiving were “pretty misogynistic,” and Mrs Brooks agreed, replying:
“Thanks. Feeling slightly like a sexist witch-hunt at times, but the Milly stuff is just the pits, so can’t blame anyone’s reaction.”
Mr Laidlaw told the jury that that observation rang true in the current trial, which has been prosecuted by Andrew Edis, QC.
Mr Laidlaw told the court:
“If, in July 2011, Kath Raymond found some of the language used about Mrs Brooks to be a dead giveaway, I wonder what she would have said if she had been here in this courtroom listening to some of the first part of Mr Edis’ closing speech in Mrs Brooks’ case?”
Mr Laidlaw said:
“The defining feature of a medieval trial for witchcraft was that the accused could never win. The terrifying reality for a woman in the 16th century, when it came to witchcraft, was that the allegation that killed her: if she drowned on the ducking stool she was dead and if she survived the ordeal, she would be condemned as a witch and burned at the stake”.
The QC told the jurors that the process they had played a part had been “no witch trial, not by any means.” Both defence and prosecution had been able to put their cases and the trial had been presided over by an impartial judge, he explained.
Mr Laidlaw said:
“But the prosecution’s approach has at times been that of a witch hunt, and never was it clearer than when Mr Edis spoke to you last week. Because just in a medieval witch trial you could tell a witch if she floated… Mr Edis takes… everything as a sign of guilt, regardless of its true meaning: If she [Mrs Brooks] comes across as likeable person to you, the jury, it’s only a cunning mask; if she laughs it’s only because she’s telling lies; if her defence makes sense, it’s only because its been carefully scripted.”
Scripting of any kind would have “cynical perjury” and Mr Laidlaw himself would be guilty of “serious professional misconduct”, he said.
He reminded the jury that Mrs Brooks had spent 14 days in the witness box and they had delved into her emails, documents and computers, and looked at some highly personal material.
He said: “You have probably seen deeper into Rebekah Brooks’s inner life than anyone you have encountered.”
Yet, he complained to the jurors, Mr Edis had told them that client had been wearing a mask.
“In the last six months you have seen all around this woman’s life,” Mr Laidlaw said.
“If what you saw was a mask, Mrs Brooks must be a witch with truly supernatural powers. No human mask could withstand that amount of scrutiny without cracking.”
Mr Laidlaw went on:
“Mr Edis describes her as wearing as a mask because he failed in five days of cross-examination to prove she was guilty. I’m going to leave you with the thought that [although] many people inside News International and out do not like her, and what she stands for… not one disgruntled reporter has come forward to say that she ever had anything to do with phone hacking.”
Mr Laidlaw said: “We ask on Rebekah Brooks’ behalf for no special treatment. We ask only this of you: that you examine the evidence carefully, and you say – because it’s the right result – that the prosecution has fallen short, woefully short.”
With that, the defence case for Mrs Brooks ended.
The case resumes on Tuesday 27 May.