Everything You Need To Know About The Phone Hacking Trial

The truth is sometimes far stranger than fiction.

1. UPDATE – 4 July: Andy Coulson has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for his part in a conspiracy to hack phones.


Two former NOTW executives, Neville Thurlbeck and Greg Miskiw, were given six-month jail sentences. Glenn Mulcaire was given a suspended prison term. Full details here.

2. A former editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson, was found guilty of phone hacking, while Rebekah Brooks walked free in one of the longest running and most expensive trials in British legal history.

REX USA / Rex

REX USA / Rex

 

After two historic days for the British media industry, that leave unanswered questions about the role of police and senior politicians in condoning or ignoring wrongdoing at News International:

• Andy Coulson, also a former chief press spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron, has been found guilty of one count of conspiracy to intercept communications.

• Rebekah Brooks, former editor of The Sun and former CEO of News International, was found not guilty of all charges, including conspiracies to intercept communications, pervert the course of justice and to commit misconduct in public office.

• The jury retired to consider counts 2 and 3 – conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office charges, both relating to Clive Goodman and Andy Coulson – but could not reach a verdict on Wednesday.

UPDATE June 30: Coulson and Goodman will face a retrial on counts 2 and 3, relating to their alleged purchase of internal contacts books from royal households.

• Stuart Kuttner, former managing editor of the News of the World; Mark Hanna, former head of security at News International; Charlie Brooks, Rebekah’s husband and Cheryl Carter, her former personal assistant, were all found not guilty of all charges.

• All the verdicts handed down on Tuesday were unanimous.

• There were originally 11 defendants in this case – three have already pleaded guilty and one was deemed medically unfit to stand trial.

• The three News of the World journalists who pleaded guilty to phone hacking last year were: Neville Thurlbeck, Greg Miskiw and James Weatherup – while 15 other journalists are waiting to find out if they will be charged over another alleged conspiracies to hack phones at the News of the World and The Sunday Mirror.

Sentencing of those journalists – as well as Coulson, former News of the World reporter Dan Evans and Glenn Mulcaire – will take place on Friday next week.

6. Last night The Guardian reported that News Corp’s founder, CEO and chairman will be further dragged into the scandal when police interview him about phone hacking.

Jason Kempin / Getty

According to the report, his son James Murdoch could also be interviewed under police caution. Police reportedly agreed to wait until the end of the hacking trial to conduct these interviews.

In addition, the conviction of Andy Coulson could leave News Corp facing corporate corruption charges, as well as several more possible criminal charges against its journalists and the possibility of more civil claims from hacking victims.

The media mogul said that having to explain the hacking scandal before a Parliamentary select committee in 2011 was “the most humble day of my life”.

10. The court sat for 138 days and heard some remarkable things. The jury was told that Charlie Brooks concealed evidence – and hardcore pornography – from police and may have used pizza to cover his tracks.

Bethany Clarke / Getty

While Rebekah Brooks was under arrest at Lewisham Police Station on 17 July 2011, ten days after the announced closure of the News of the World, an event that would underpin the whole hacking trial was taking place.

Brooks and Mark Hanna, then head of security at News International, were executing an elaborate scheme to hide a computer behind a bin in an underground car park beneath Brooks’s London flat. Brooks denied any wrongdoing but admitted in court this was act was “stupidly rash” but still preferable to “20 policemen coming in and emptying every drawer and looking under every nook and cranny.”

Why the secrecy? Because, he argued, the laptop contained a draft of a novel and his personal “smut” collection, including films such as Lesbian Lovers. Brooks told the court that he feared a “Jacqui Smith moment – referring to the embarrassment suffered by the then Home Secretary after her husband claimed a porn film on her MP’s expenses. “I didn’t want the same thing to happen to Rebekah,” he said.

11. The jury saw CCTV pictures showing Brooks place the computer and a jiffy bag behind a bin, out of shot.

 

After disappearing out of shot, he emerges empty-handed.

Then Hanna appears and appears to walk away with the bag and lapop. He told the court the bag was filled with pornography, so it “became obvious why he didn’t want it to fall into the hands of the police or Rebekah”. He maintains that as this was Brooks’s personal property there was no crime being committed.

Police can be seen leaving with notebooks and computers from the flat after their search.

12. At 9:30 p.m. that night a News International security guard appears to bring the bag, laptop and a suitcase back to the car park, long after the police have gone.

13. But somehow, the items aren’t found by Brooks – as the prosecution said was the plan – but by a car park cleaner the next morning, leaving security staff perplexed.

The cleaner handed the stash to the police via his manager and that evidence became the starting point for these charges.

But Brooks argued he was simply hiding his own personal property and the the jury unanimously decided this didn’t amount to a perversion of the course of justice.

14. Nevertheless, this has been an embarassing episode for everyone involved. The court heard in graphic detail the kind of pornography that Charlie Brooks owned.


Neil Saunders QC, for Charlie Brooks, told the court that there were seven DVDs plus the magazine Lesbian Lovers, which contained: “Approximately 25 images of female nudity, including breasts, female genitalia, female masturbation and images of a sexual nature portraying penetration by other females.”

Brooks howled with laughter in court when his own QC said “there’s not much reading” in Lesbian Lovers.

15. Plus we learned that Charlie Brooks once drank a pint of washing up liquid to make himself sick.

Dan Kitwood / Getty

Sara Bradstock told the Old Bailey in her character statement on Brooks that the racehorse trainer was “capable of being completely daft”, as proven by the one time he tried out Fairy Liquid as a way of beating a hangover.

“I once found him frothing at the mouth looking close to death one morning, only to discover that he had not been bitten by a rabid dog, but had drunk a pint of Fairy Liquid to try and rid himself of the excesses of the night before.”

However, according to The Times, Brooks said in the court canteen the next day that in fact he wasn’t hungover and was trying to lose weight while racing as a jockey. After trying to make himself sick with a pheasant feather, with no success, he then moved on to Fairy liquid mixed with Orangina. He had seen a vet in All Creatures Great and Small use soap to make a dog sick and wanted to try it himself.

16. The trial judge, Mr Justice Saunders, called this Private Eye front cover, released on 1 November 2013 as the trial got underway, in “bad taste” but ruled that it wasn’t in contempt of court.

Private Eye

17. The media coverage of the scandal was intense – and saw an unprecedented number of papers write about their rivals.

The Guardian

Daily Mail

 

Gone was the unspoken Fleet Street rule that papers don’t criticise each other.

18. As had long been rumoured, the trial heard that Brooks and Coulson, the former editor of News of the World, had an on-off affair that lasted six years, while both of them made careers out of exposing other people’s extra-marital affairs.

Dan Kitwood / Getty

Dan Kitwood / Getty

 

Brooks wrote to Coulson in February 2004: “You are my very best friend. I tell you everything, I confide in you, I seek your advice, I love you, care about you, worry about you. ‘We laugh and cry together. In fact without our relationship in my life, I am really not sure how I will cope.”

Andrew Edis, prosecuting, said the letter and the pair’s relationship was relevant to the trial because of the close working relationship of two of News International’s most senior figures. The jury were asked to read the letter in silence.

Meanwhile, not long after of the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone in 2002, The Sun, under its new editor Rebekah Brooks, called Andy Gilchrist, head of the Fire Brigades Union, a “lying, cheating, fornicator… a hypocrite who lies about his famiy so he can drop his trousers,” in a typically tub-thumping editorial column.

Ironically, Gilchrist was one of many public figures whose phones were hacked. He told the trial that journalists seemed to “know where I was going before I got there. I couldn’t understand how they got this confidential information”.

20. The closure of the News of the World was just one aspect of what became a major international crisis for Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.

Getty / Christopher Furlong

This scandal has affected not just the seven defendants but hundreds of journalists and employees worldwide, due to the closure of a 165-year-old newspaper and the splitting of Rupert Murdoch’s media assets.

• 250 jobs were lost on 10 July 2011 when News of the World last rolled off the presses, although 65 people were offered jobs on the new Sun on Sunday and 81 took a generous voluntary redundancy package.

• At the same time, Rebekah Brooks, who had been promoted to CEO of News International having been one of its most senior editorial figures, was given a £10.8 million payoff for “loss of office.”

• There was intense speculation at the time that the decision to shut News of the World was related to an on-going attempt to buy the shares in BSkyB that News Corp didn’t already own. But the company’s bid was withdrawn on 13 July after Ofcom questioned James Murdoch’s conduct during the phone hacking scandal.

21. This trial may have never happened if it wasn’t for the tenacity of one Guardian journalist.

John Stillwell/PA Archive/Press Association Images

The Guardian

 

Reporter Nick Davies reported on 5 July 2011 that someone at News of the World had hacked into the voicemail of Milly Dowler, the schoolgirl who was murdered in March 2002.

Within 48 hours, after some 33 advertisers had withdrawn their support, the company announced the paper would close.

The final issue sold 4.5 million copies and its proceeds after costs, more than £3 million, were given to charity.

However, one of The Guardian’s central claims – that News of the World journalists deleted Dowler’s voicemails after listening to them and therefore gave hope to her family that she may still be alive – was untrue and the paper made a clarification.

22. For Davies, this story is about how powerful elites “look after each other”.


It’s about power and the power elite and the way that the power elite tend to look after each other. I think it’s reasonable to observe that the Murdoch corporation has too much power and it’s evident in the way that the police, the Press Complaints Commission and some politicians automatically backed off and said ‘let’s not cause trouble, they might hurt us’, that they already had too much power when all this was going on on.

It seems to me highly unlikely that it’s in the interests of society as a whole to give that too powerful group yet more power.

23. In seven years we’ve gone from News International saying that hacking was only carried out by “one rogue reporter” to an admission that it was widespread.


Within weeks of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire’s jailing in 2007, News International’s PR machine was busy making it clear that corruption and wrong-doing had been rooted out. This line of defence continued for years – even in the face of increasing evidence to the contrary.

Les Hinton, the former chief executive of News International and for many years Rupert Murdoch’s right-hand man in Europe, told a parliamentary select committee in March 2007, two months after Mulcaire went to jail, whether there had been a “full, rigorous internal inquiry” and whether he was “absolutely convinced that Clive Goodman was the only person who knew what was going on”.

His answer was very clear: “Yes, we have, and I believe he was the only person, but that investigation, under the new editor, continues.”

As The Guardian reported that News International had paid £1 million to victims of phone hacking, including £700,000 to former PFA chief exectuive Gordon Taylor, its denials got stronger. “All of these irresponsible and unsubstantiated allegations against News of the World and other News International titles and its journalists are false,” it said.

24. The Press Complaints Commission initially dismissed much of the phone hacking allegations.


In report on phone-hacking, later withdrawn, the newspaper industry watchdog said there was no evidence that phone hacking was on-going and that the Guardian’s claims had been overblown.

It said: “The Commission could not help but conclude that the Guardian’s stories did not quite live up to the dramatic billing they were initially given.

“Perhaps this was because the sources could not be tested; or because Nick Davies was unable to shed further light on the suggestions of a broader conspiracy at the newspaper; or because there was significant evidence to the contrary from the police; or because so much of the information was old and had already appeared in the public domain (or a combination of these factors).

“Whatever the reason, there did not seem to be anything concrete to support the implication that there had been a hitherto concealed criminal conspiracy at the News of the World to intrude into people’s privacy.”

25. The sheer scale of the hacking operation at News International, according to the police, is staggering.

WPA Pool

News Corp accepted 254 claims and settled 60 as part of its massive compensation scheme – including a £2 million payment to the parents of Milly Dowler (pictured above with Prime Minister David Cameron), the murdered schoolgirl whose mobile voicemail the News of the World hacked, the single defining moment of the scandal.

Some 130 out of 167 civil claims from hacking victims, including Cherie Blair, filed in the courts were settled. There are more than 1,000 “likely” victims, according to the Metropolitan Police and as many as 5,500 potential ones.

26. The trial offered a glimpse into how executives at the top of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire live.

Dan Kitwood / Getty

The court heard that Rebekah Brooks’s two personal assistants, Cheryl Carter (pictured) and Deborah Keegan, who appeared as a witness, were in charge of not just her business matters but everyday personal tasks including, but not restricted to:

• Doing her shopping
• Managing her bank accounts
• Returning clothes she had bought online
• Booking restaurant tables
• Making sure bills, such as for gas, were fully paid
• Buying Christmas presents
• Keeping her make-up bag topped up
• Serving her breakfast
• Keeping important documents, such as marriage certificate and gun licence, safe.

They also provided similar personal tasks for Charlie, Rebekah’s husband.

On 8 July 2011, Brooks emailed Carter – who had been given her own beauty column in the Sun – to say: “Coffee and hot milk please, separately. This is disgusting.”

When police arrived at 7 a.m. in 2012 to search Carter’s Essex home, she offered them tea and biscuits.

She was found not guilty of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

27. The court heard that Carter once told Rupert Murdoch that Brooks was unavailable because she was shopping at MFI, the furniture store.

Oli Scarff / Getty

Brooks was in fact attening a meeting at MI5, the British intelligence and security agency.

28. A safe belonging to Tom Crone, NOTW’s in-house lawyer contained the birth certificate of the son of Kimberly Quinn, who had an affair with David Blunkett.

Laurence Griffiths / Getty

The safe had copies of 330 recordings of voicemail messages, including one in which Blunkett, then a prominent cabinet minister, told Quinn: “You are breaking my heart.”

The court heard a lengthy phone conversation between Andy Coulson, then editor of the NOTW, and Blunkett in which the journalist tried to persuade the politician to admit to affair.

Blunkett demands to know Coulson’s source, but he will only say it his information is “based on extremely reliable sources”.

29. Princess Diana gave Clive Goodman one of the “green book” internal royal phone directories, the trial heard.

Hulton Archive / Getty

Goodman claimed that Diana gave him the book as part of a campaign against her estranged husband Prince Charles.

“She told me she wanted me to see the scale of her husband’s staff and household, compared with others… She felt she was being swamped by people close to his household. She was looking for an ally to take him on - to show the kind of forces that were ranged against her,” he said.

30. Rebekah Brooks decided that all News UK emails up to 2010 should be deleted, instead of just up to 2007.


In a series of emails between the IT team at News UK and Brooks, the cutoff point for old emails was discussed and it was decided that the date should be brought forward from 2007 so that all emails up to and including January 2010.

The IT team asked if this action, given the scrutinity surrounding the company, could be “misconstrued.” But Brooks held firm: “Yes to 2010. Clean sweep,” she wrote.

31. The court heard evidence of the lengths the paper went to cover its tracks. One NOTW reporter smashed up equipment so it would never be found by the police.

Dan Kitwood / Getty

Reporter Dan Evans, the court heard, was recruited from the Sunday Mirror in 2005 and says he ran a phone-hacking enterprise entirely separate to that run by Glenn Mulcaire.

When he got a particularly juicy line from a voicemail sent by Sienna Miller to Daniel Craig, he destroyed not only the tape but the recorder he’d used, “just in case there was some way that someone down the line that someone could say this recorder made this recording – I was trying to be double careful.” Other tapes and notebooks were destroyed as well.

In January Evans became the fourth journalist to plead guilty to phone hacking at the NOTW, while also accepting charges to a separate conspiracy to intercept communications at the Sunday Mirror.

32. Evans also alleges that he was asked to leave a recording he made of a call from Sienna Miller to Daniel Craig outside to make it look like someone had dropped it off.

Chris Jackson / Getty

The court heard the plan was to drop the package at the front gate of NOTW’s building and make it look like the tape had been dropped off anonymously, rather than created by a journalist.

33. Rebekah Brooks brokered a deal with disgraced PR guru Max Clifford – whose phone was hacked – to keep him quiet and to continue receiving celebrity scoops.

Oli Scarff / Getty

Clifford – now serving jail time for unrelated sexual assault crimes – was a powerful figure in the world of celebrity kiss and tells.

But he was one of the many people whose phone was hacked by the NOTW. He entered into a civil action against the paper which would have compelled convicted hacker Glenn Mulcaire of naming News International executives who had instructed him to intercept voicemails.

“I accept the motive and objective was to stop Glenn Mulcaire from naming names, but it was also a commercial deal – Max was a great source of stories,” Brooks said during questioning.

The civil action “had the potential for financial and reputational damage to the company… We were protecting the company”.

Asked why the company didn’t feel the need to put the deal, which was worth “just under £1 million over three years”, in writing or to lay out any terms for what was expected from Clifford in return, Brooks said: “Max and I had worked together for a long time… He didn’t need it in writing, and we didn’t put it in writing to keep it separate from the legal settlement.”

Prosecuting QC Andrew Edis asked: “But it wasn’t separate from the legal settlement”. Brooks replied: “No”.

34. The detectives who investigated Charlie Brooks sought his racing tips and even joined a sweepstake he organised for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.


The horse trainer and former jockey got the very people who’d been investigating him to take part – with the £70 prize going to Stuart Kuttner’s soliticitor, acording to The Times. Rebekah Brooks was reportedly tasked with dishing out his winnings but accidenally stuffed the roll of £10 notes into the pocket of Andy Coulson’s solicitor.

35. Tony Blair gave Rebekah Brooks PR advice at the height of the scandal.

Peter Macdiarmid / Getty

An email from Rebekah Brooks to James Murdoch, then a senior executive in the Murdoch empire in the UK, revealed that the former Prime Ministers offered some very practical and useful advice on how to deal with the media storm.

Among Blair’s nuggets of wisdom were for her to: “Keep strong and definitely sleeping pills… It will pass. Tough up.” He also urged her to set up an external independent commission to investigate the hacking claims and produce a “Hutton-style” report.

If nothing else, this trial showed just how close the leaders of British media firms are to the senior political class.

36. UPDATE: Operation Weeting, the police investigation into phone hacking, cost up to £20 million, it was revealed after the trial finished.


And that’s not including the cost of operations Elveden and Tuleta, which were set up to examine claims of police payments and computer hacking.

At one point almost 200 detectives from the Met’s murder squad, the serious crime unit and the Stephen Lawrence inquiry were diverted to the Brooks investigation.

The total cost for the hacking trial is estimated at about £100 million, with only a quarter of that covered by the public purse.

37. We don’t even know the full cost to Rupert Murdoch’s media empire – in terms of money and political power.

Jason Kemplin / Getty

To date the company has spent at least $340 million (£200 million) just on legal fees and at least £50 million in compensation and legal costs to phone hacking victims in the civil courts.

Yet the total bill for the hacking scandal is unknown and could spiral further.

Former News International CEO Tom Mockridge said at a private meeting, according to Exaro: “There’s a shitload of just financial expense – across the civil cases … The hacking probably, by the time it’s all over, is going to cost News Corp minimum of £500 million, if not a billion.”

38. News UK, the company formerly known as News International, said in a statement on Tuesday:


We said long ago, and repeat today, that wrongdoing occurred, and we apologised for it. We have been paying compensation to those affected and have cooperated with investigations.

We made changes in the way we do business to help ensure wrongdoing like this does not occur again. And we are strong supporters of the Independent Press Standards Organisation that is expected to begin work this autumn, serving as a watchdog on the industry in the public interest.

Out of respect for the fact that further legal proceedings will occur, we will have no further comment at this time.

39. Update - June 30, 3 p.m. BST: In a pre-sentencing hearing for the six former News of the World employees and contractors on Monday the full scale of the phone hacking operation was laid bare.


Chief prosecutor Andrew Edis QC told the court that the hacking was carried out by several people and that there were six separate phone hacking operations in 2004 and 2005, after the success the paper found from targeting David Blunkett.

Glenn Mulcaire, who was convicted of phone hacking back in 2007, was named and shamed as the “personification of the phone hacking scandal,” according to his QC, speaking in mitigation today. While Mulcaire was hacking voicemails on an industrial scale, in fact journalists at the paper were doing their own hacking too.

The six men to be sentenced on Friday are Andy Coulson, Neville Thurlbeck, Dan Evans, Glenn Mulcaire and Greg Miskiw. They will be sentenced on Friday.

The maximum prison sentence for the unlawful interception of phone messages is two years.

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