Brooks, Coulson Face Trial Over Hacking at News Corp. Paper

News International former CEO Rebekah Brooks
Rebekah Brooks, former chief executive officer of News International Ltd., the U.K. publishing unit of News Corp., center, and her husband Charlie Brooks, right, arrive at the Old Bailey, London's Central Criminal Court, in London. Photographer: Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg

Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive officer of News Corp.’s U.K. unit, will face charges she intercepted voicemails, paid bribes and hid evidence at a London trial that may last as long as six months.

Brooks and Andy Coulson, both 45-year-old former editors of News Corp.’s now-defunct News of the World tabloid, will stand trial over the reporting practices at the paper. A jury of nine women and three men was selected today and opening arguments will start tomorrow at London’s Central Criminal Court.

More than 100 journalists and public officials have been arrested in investigations of News Corp. newspapers starting in 2011 that have uncovered allegations of phone hacking and bribery. Rupert Murdoch, the company’s chairman, shut down the News of the World in July 2011 in a bid to defuse the scandal.

Judge John Saunders warned the jurors that “British justice is on trial,” giving them orders to decide the outcome of the case based purely on the evidence they hear in court.

He showed jurors a copy of the November issue of Private Eye magazine, which had a picture of Brooks on the cover.

“It’s meant to be satire, you ignore it,” he said to the jury. It’s a “joke in especially bad taste.”

Cameron Adviser

In addition to Brooks and Coulson, a former press adviser to U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, six other people will go on trial.

Stuart Kuttner, the 73-year-old former managing editor of the tabloid, and Ian Edmondson, a 44-year-old former news editor, are both accused of phone hacking. The newspaper’s one-time royal reporter, Clive Goodman, 56, is charged with conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office.

Brooks’s husband, Charlie, her former assistant Cheryl Carter, and News U.K.’s former head of security, Mark Hanna, face charges of conspiring to pervert the course of justice. All eight have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The case, the first of four trials which will extend well into 2014, has attracted media attention worldwide. Saunders, who oversaw the trials of former politicians embroiled in the U.K. Parliamentary expenses scandal, will preside over the case.

Conspiracy Charges

The case will look at seven separate charges of conspiracy to intercept communications, conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

The maximum prison term for perverting the course of justice is 36 months while committing misconduct in a public office carries as much as a life term, according to the Crown Prosecution Service’s website. The heaviest sentence that can be handed down for unlawful interception of communications is two years.

Andrew Edis is the lawyer who will lead the prosecution team. Edis successfully tried former U.K. Energy Secretary Chris Huhne and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce in March for lying about who was driving Huhne’s car when it was caught speeding.

Brooks is represented by Jonathan Laidlaw, while Coulson’s lawyer is Timothy Langdale, who specializes in fraud and criminal trials.

Trinity Mirror Plc tabloids were pulled into the U.K. scandals in March when police arrested four journalists linked to the newspaper, opening a new front in the investigation.

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