Day 118, Part 2: The charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice against Rebekah Brooks, News International former chief executive, and Mark Hanna, the newspaper group’s head of security, hinges on the evidence against her husband Charlie, the judge suggested today.
Summing up at the phone hacking trial, Mr Justice Saunders told the jury that the charge, Count 7, revolved around Mr Brooks’ motivation when he hid his bags from the police on 17 July 2011 while his wife was being questioned at a London police station.
Mr Justice Saunders told the jury: “You may think on the evidence that unless you find Mr Brooks guilty you cannot find the other two guilty.”
He said the Crown’s case was that Mr Brooks had attempted to hide incriminating evidence from detectives investigating phone hacking; that Mr Hanna had gone along with the plan; and that given it was intended to benefit his wife Mrs Brooks must have been known about or approved it.
Mr Brooks, the judge said, accepted that he had sought to hide material from the police during searches of the Brooks’ homes, but that the material was not relevant to the police’s investigation.
His case, the judge told the Old Bailey, was that he had wanted to prevent police from acquiring a computer with a draft of his novel Switch because he feared losing his book deal with HarperCollins, and he was also worried details of his (legal) pornography collection would be leaked to the Guardian, as had happened in other arrests by the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Weeting.
Mr Justice Saunders, who will continue his summing up of Count 6 tomorrow, also dealt with the charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice against Mrs Brooks and her former PA, Cheryl Carter, regarding the alleged removal of Mrs Brooks’ notebooks from News International’s archive on 8 July 2011 – the day before the News of the World closed.
He said the issues in Count 6 were whether the boxes actually contained Mrs Brooks’ notebooks, why they had been removed when they were, whether Mrs Carter rather than the archivist had instigated their removal, why they had been delivered urgently, and what part, if any, had Mrs Brooks played in the process.
Mr Justice Saunders noted that when she was questioned by police about the notebooks on 24 November 2011, Mrs Carter had made several inaccurate statements. He said they included Mrs Brooks being away at a fitness “boot camp” at the time of the removal of the notebooks, when she had been at Wapping overseeing the NoW’s closure, and that the few items removed from archive that did belong to Mrs Brooks’ included three large pictures, when there were no large pictures.
The jury would have to decide, the jude said, whether Mrs Carter had been seeking to mislead the police or whether she merely had difficulty remembering what had happened.
Mr Justice Saunders told the jury: “Rebekah Brooks’ case is that she had nothing to do with the depositing of the boxes nor their withdrawal.”
All seven defendants in the trial, which has lasted eight months, deny the charges.
The jury is expected to retire to consider its verdicts at lunchtime tomorrow.