Rebekah Brooks knew the full extent of the phone-hacking cover-up at News Corp. before she became chief executive officer of the company’s U.K. unit in 2009, prosecutors said.
Brooks was told by police in 2006 there were as many as 110 hacking victims, yet only five had been investigated in the criminal case against a private detective and the News of the World’s royal reporter in 2007, Andrew Edis, a prosecution lawyer, said today. Publicly, the publisher maintained that hacking was the work of a rogue reporter.
“That was not true, was it?” Edis said on his first day cross-examining Brooks in a London court. “You knew, didn’t you,” as a result of the police information? “The whole truth didn’t emerge during the trial.”
Brooks, 45, is one of seven people standing trial on charges related to phone hacking and bribing public officials at the New York-based company’s U.K. newspapers. News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch closed the weekly News of the World in 2011 following a scandal caused by the discovery that journalists at the tabloid had listened to messages on the phone of a murdered teenager.
Clive Goodman, another defendant in today’s case, was jailed in 2006 for hacking the phone of aides to the royal family along with the detective, Glenn Mulcaire.
Prosecutors showed the jury e-mails from the day Mulcaire and Goodman pleaded guilty in the original phone-hacking trial that indicated Brooks discussed phone-hacking victims with at least one of her co-defendants in today’s case.
Brooks told Andy Coulson, the then editor of the News of the World, that Labour politician David Blunkett had also been hacked, referring to him as “Blunks.”
“It is not all helpful not least as it is all going so well today,” Coulson said in the e-mail shown to the jury.
Brooks replied that some newspapers, including the Guardian, already knew about some of the details.
“The Media Guardian have known this for weeks anyway,” Brooks said in the e-mail. “I told you when I got back from Australia...and the full story.”
Coulson has pleaded not guilty to charges of phone hacking and bribery in the case.
Police told Brooks in 2006 that Labour Party politicians John Prescott, who was deputy prime minister from 1997 until 2007, and Tessa Jowell had their phones hacked, Edis said.
‘I Think So’
“Yes, I think so,” Brooks replied, when asked if that was correct. She was also told her own phone messages were accessed.
Edis asked Brooks if she was adhering to the company’s defense stance in public while she privately knew the truth.
“I didn’t see it like that,” said Brooks, who has been testifying for more than a week. “It is true that I knew there were” more victims but “the police said they needed between five and 10 victims” to charge Mulcaire and Goodman, she said.
Earlier this week, she said that the company’s rogue-reporter defense was “shaky” after the discovery of a 2005 e-mail that showed the practice was more widespread.
Brooks said she would let her journalists break the law if it was in the public interest and that she never directly told her staff not to hack phones.
Brooks testified today that she never asked anyone while she was editor or an executive who Mulcaire was or what he did.
“My assumption was that” Mulcaire was employed during her editorship of the News of the World “as a private investigator, tracing people,” she said today.
“How did you know, you didn’t ask anyone,” Edis said.