Rebekah Brooks, the former head of News Corp.’s U.K. unit, joked with Piers Morgan about phone hacking at a 2003 birthday party, a witness told a London court.
Morgan, who then edited a rival Daily Mirror newspaper, told Brooks that he knew about the stories she planned to put on the front page of a News Corp. tabloid because he had been listening to her messages, Ambi Sitham, a former U.K. lawyer who now lives in California, testified today.
“Been hacking my phone again, have you Piers?” Brooks replied, Sitham told the court today in a video link to the court from Los Angeles.
Brooks, 45, is one of eight people standing trial on charges related to wrongdoing at News Corp.’s U.K. newspapers. Company Chairman Rupert Murdoch closed the weekly News of the World tabloid in 2011 amid a scandal over revelations journalists intercepted voice-mail messages on the phone of a missing teenager.
Sitham said that Morgan, who now hosts a talk show on CNN in the U.S., and Brooks bantered “back and forth” about phone hacking at the party for Andy Coulson, another former News of the World editor on trial for phone hacking.
Sitham, who was a privacy lawyer at the time, admitted she didn’t tell her employers about any concerns she had about the conversation.
“The truth is that this conversation did not happen did it?” Clare Sibson, a lawyer for Brooks, asked during cross-examination.
Meghan McPartland, a spokeswoman for CNN’s “Piers Morgan Live,” didn’t immediately respond to a voice mail seeking comment.
Last month, another witness told the court that Brooks had described phone hacking as “so easy.” Eimear Cook said that at a 2005 lunch, Brooks told her that it was “ludicrous” that famous people didn’t protect their voice-mail messages.
Brooks served as both the editor of the weekly News of the World and News Corp.’s daily Sun tabloid before becoming the head of the company’s publishing unit in 2009.
Coulson, who became a press adviser to Cameron after he left the News of the World in 2007, faces charges of bribery and phone hacking. The tabloid’s ex-managing editor, Stuart Kuttner, is on trial for conspiring to hack phones.
Other defendants include Clive Goodman who is charged with conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office while he was the royal reporter at the News of the World. A former news editor, Ian Edmondson, is also charged with phone hacking.
Brooks’s husband, Charlie, her former assistant Cheryl Carter, and the U.K. unit’s former head of security, Mark Hanna, face charges of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.