Rebekah Brooks, the former head of News Corp.’s U.K. unit, said she was vindicated by a jury’s decision to acquit her as she spoke publicly for the first time since the verdicts.
“The last few years have been tough for both of us,” Brooks told a throng of reporters outside her London home, alongside her husband, Charlie. “I am innocent of the crimes I have been charged with.”
Brooks, the 46-year-old former editor of the News of the World at the center of an eight-month trial into wrongdoing at two News Corp. tabloids, was cleared June 24 of all charges against her relating to phone hacking, bribery and perverting the course of justice. Charlie Brooks was cleared by the jury of obstructing justice.
“It’s been a time of reflection for me,” Brooks said as she struggled to be heard over reporters who repeatedly shouted out questions. “I’ve learned some valuable lessons.”
The verdicts were the climax of a scandal that erupted amid the discovery that reporters at the News of the World tabloid hacked the phone of a murdered teenager, Milly Dowler. Chairman Rupert Murdoch closed the newspaper in 2011 in a bid to temper public outrage over the hacking of Dowler’s phone.
Andy Coulson, another former editor of the News of the World who went on to become a media adviser to U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, was the only one of seven defendants convicted and was found guilty of one count of phone hacking.
During the trial, prosecutors revealed that Brooks and Coulson had an affair that lasted at least six years while they worked together at News Corp. Brooks didn’t answer questions reporters shouted about Coulson and the relationship.
The trial doesn’t necessarily spell the end of the woes for News Corp.’s U.K. business as prosecutors are mulling whether to press corporate charges against the company. Other News Corp. journalists face criminal trials over bribing public official that will stretch into next year.
“I can’t say too much today, I have to be careful for my former colleagues,” Brooks said as she finished her statement.
Brooks has been the focus of the media coverage since the phone-hacking scandal erupted in 2011. During a two-week period, the News of the World was closed, she resigned her post and then was arrested by police.
Maelstrom of Controversy
“When I was arrested it was in the middle of a maelstrom of controversy, politics and comment,” Brooks said. “Some of that was fair but much of it wasn’t.”
Her husband, who sat with his wife nearly every day of the trial, said they had maintained their innocence all along.
“Everything, absolutely everything we said two years ago has proved to be true,” Charlie Brooks said as he stood with his arm around his wife. The couple got into a black car to head for their country home in Oxfordshire.
Murdoch, who flew into London this morning, supported Brooks throughout the process and failed in his attempts to stop her from resigning in July 2011. At the time, Murdoch and Brooks appeared in the street outside his Mayfair apartment to be surrounded by photographers and television crews. What was his priority, Murdoch was asked. “This one,” he said, gesturing at Brooks.
The jury couldn’t reach a decision on two charges of bribing public officials against Coulson, 46, and Clive Goodman, a former reporter at the newspaper. U.K. prosecutors are expected to make a decision whether to pursue a retrial against Coulson next week.