Day 114, Part 1: Charlie Brooks is a loving husband who enjoys a few drinks down the pub and makes “stupid” decisions, rather than the mastermind of a criminal conspiracy, his lawyer told London’s Central Criminal Court today.
Making his closing speech at the phone hacking trial, Neil Saunders, for Mr Brooks, husband of former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks, described his client as an open, straight-forward individual who was “not academically gifted.”
He had said that when Mr Brooks stashed bags with his computers and pornography behind some bins in an underground carpark on the day of his wife’s arrest, 17 July 2011, he was not trying to conceal evidence or phone hacking, as suggested by the Crown – but a loyal husband trying to protect his wife from embarrassment.
In making the “stupid” decision to hide the bags – later found by a cleaner – Mr Brooks was having a “Jacqui Smith moment”, Mr Saunders said, referring to the former Home Secretary whose husband’s viewing of a pornographic film was later made public.
Mr Brooks, Mr Saunders explained, was concerned that police would leak details of the DVDs and magazines in the bags, and was also worried about losing his book publishing deal with HarperCollins. He had four book ideas on his Sony Vaio laptop which had not been backed up on other computers, Mr Saunders told the court.
Prosecution and defence agree that no material subsequently found in the bags was relevant to the case against Mrs Brooks. Referring to the judge’s legal directions, Mr Saunders told the jury that that if they were to convict Mr Brooks they would have to be sure there was “additional missing property” absent from the bags, and that Mr Brooks had played a part in its disappearance.
He added that if Mr Brooks had wanted to get rid of any evidence incriminating him or his wife he had plenty of opportunity to do so while the Metropolitan Police inquiry into hacking was continuing in March, April, May, June and early July 2011.
He accused the prosecution of basing its case against Mr Brooks on “theories”, rather than facts.
Mr Saunders told the court: “Charlie Brooks accepts that his actions were ill-thought – bluntly described by [Mrs Brooks’ QC] Mr Laidlaw as stupid. But we suggest that however you describe them, they were not criminal.”
“Charlie I am sure will forgive me for saying, he was not academically gifted, but in giving evidence I hope you can see the character of the man. At 18, he left school and became a stable hand; not afraid to get his hands dirty with all the mucking out.”
He reminded the jury that a character witnesses, Sarah Bradstock, had recalled Mr Brooks once drank a bottle of Fairy Liquid in a misguided attempt to cure a hangover.
His actions were those of “an innocent man who’s done something foolish, not the mastermind of a criminal conspiracy.”
Mr Saunders told the jury: “It will be a matter for you whether the evidence shows him to be a loving husband who’s tried to protect his wife from the pressure she was under.”
He went on:
“Charlie is a man who’s always up for going to the pub and having a pint – or three. What he did that weekend was stupid – and he knows it, but whilst he’s a man capable of drinking a bottle of Fairy Liquid, he’s not a man capable of committing this criminal offence.”
All defendants deny the charges. The case continues.