Day 114, Part 2: Mark Hanna, News International’s security chief, did nothing more than pick up some property from Rebekah Brooks’ husband Charlie and arrange its return the following day, his lawyer told the phone hacking trial today.
William Clegg, QC, told the jury at the Old Bailey that the prosecution had kept changing its story about Mr Hanna’s alleged involvement in a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in July 2011, at the height of the phone hacking scandal.
On 17 July 2011, Mr Hanna took Mr Brooks’s brown briefcase from Oxfordshire where they had stayed overnight to the underground car park below the flat Mr Brooks shared with his wife, NI’s former CEO, in Chelsea Harbour.
There, Mr Hanna also picked up a jiffy bag containing some of Mr Brooks’ pornography, which he took together with the briefcase to News International’s headquarters in Wapping – while Mrs Brooks was questioned by detectives at Lewisham police station.
Later that evening – after police had searched the Brooks’s flat – Mr Hanna arranged for the bags to be returned to the underground car park.
When they were found inadvertently by a cleaner the next day, Monday 18 July, they contained nothing relevant to the police inquiry.
The prosecution, however, suggest that at some stage Mr Brooks, Mr Hanna and Mrs Brooks used the trip to London or the subsequent hiding of the bags to conceal potentially important evidence.
Making his closing speech, Mr Clegg, said there were a number of holes in the prosecution case against his client.
There could not have been a “cunning plan” to frustrate the police, the QC said, because there was no reason for Mr Brooks to risk including him in any potentially illegal plot.
Indeed, Mr Clegg said, Mr Hanna had planned to be off on holiday on the weekend of Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 July, and he did not have the insurance necessary to drive Mr Brooks’ Range Rover on the Sunday, forcing him hastily to arrange some that morning.
In addition, Mr Hanna had not been told of the plan for one of his security guards to drive Mrs Brooks to Lewisham police station, and had not unloaded anything when he stopped off at his home in Buckinghamshire on the way to London.
Mr Hanna also was correct when he stated at the outset that a text message he had sent to a security guard saying: “I have a plan” was nothing to do with an alleged plan to cover the return of the property by accompany it with a pizza delivery – because the pizza had been ordered before he sent the message.
Mr Clegg told the jury:
“It’s fortunate that you can on the CCTV view everything Mark Hanna did there [in the underground car park. And you know he took property from there – some of which had come from the Range Rover and some of which had come from the flat upstairs. It is the same property that was recovered the following day.
“And if that was the property and the only property that Mark Hanna moved that day to help Charlie Brooks, then everybody agrees that the only verdict in his case has to be not guilty – because that property was not incriminating of Mrs Brooks in any way, shape or form.”
Citing the testimony of Jane Viner, News International’s facilities manager, that Mr Hanna was an honest, trustworthy and reliable employee who had received commendations during his earlier military career, Mr Clegg told the jury: “He is, we submit, a man who has been caught up in this huge sensational case which, in truth, has nothing to do with him.”
All seven defendants in the case deny all charges. The judge, Mr Justice Saunders, begins his summing up tomorrow.