May 20 (Bloomberg) -- Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of two News Corp. tabloids, blamed the media for her failure to get a fair trial on charges she conspired to hack phones and bribe public officials.
The seven-month trial has “been conducted against a backdrop of significant attention from the media,” Jonathan Laidlaw, Brooks’s lawyer, said during his closing speech today.
The coverage has been full of “criticism and comment through inaccuracies and bias to downright cruelty and vitriol,” Laidlaw told jurors in London. “She has started at a disadvantage, some yards behind the starting line and she can’t win.”
The 45-year-old Brooks, who rose to become head of News Corp.’s U.K. unit, is among seven people on trial for wrongdoing at the company’s Sun and News of the World newspapers. Company Chairman Rupert Murdoch closed the News of the World in 2011 in a bid to temper public outrage over the hacking of the phone of Milly Dowler, a teenager who was found murdered in 2002.
Prosecutors and the police were also criticized by Laidlaw, who accused them of bringing in at least one “lying” witness.
“Their attitude has been theory first -- evidence later,” Laidlaw said. “This case has been described as the trial of the century. Much nonsense, complete nonsense has been spoken about these proceedings and awful things have been said about Rebekah Brooks.”
No Smoking Gun
Laidlaw said that there was little evidence of the interception of voice-mail messages while Brooks was the top editor of the weekly News of the World from 2000 until 2003. There are just two incidents where there is evidence of phone hacking out of 550 requests made by reporters to a private investigator made during her tenure, Laidlaw said.
“There was no smoking gun in the evidence said to be suggestive of Mrs. Brooks’s guilt,” Laidlaw said.
There is no evidence that the practice followed Brooks to News Corp.’s daily Sun tabloid, which she took over in 2003, Laidlaw said. Brooks is also charged with conspiring to bribe public officials while at the Sun and of obstructing justice after the phone-hacking scandal erupted in 2011.
“Can it be a coincidence that in her three years editing the News of the World there is not a single phone-hacking story in a paper she edited,” Laidlaw told the jury.
Dowler’s voice-mail messages were hacked while Brooks was on holiday in Dubai in April 2002 with her first husband. Brooks knew nothing of the hacking, Laidlaw said.
“On the evidence, they did not consult her and, if there is one thing you can be confident about in this case, it is Rebekah Brooks is not guilty of the phone hacking of Milly’s phone,” Laidlaw said as he accused the prosecution of being desperate in its pursuit of Brooks.
“Whether she would have agreed to it or not is almost academic,” he said. Other editors at the News of the World “didn’t consult her.”
Laidlaw tried to minimize an affair between Brooks and Andy Coulson, another defendant in the case, which prosecutors say was crucial to proving a conspiracy to break the law among editors at News Corp. newspapers. He said a letter Brooks wrote to Coulson after they broke up merely “expresses the pain Mrs. Brooks felt when she wrote it.”
“We all know in the immediate aftermath of a breakup of a relationship there can be a tendency to overemphasize the importance of what you have lost, even to yourself,” Laidlaw said.
Brooks, whose husband is also charged with destroying evidence, denies the charges. Coulson, who later became a communications adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron, has also pleaded not guilty.
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