By Martin Hickman.
Jurors should consider how News International’s executives behaved after the arrest of the News of the World’s royal editor Clive Goodman for phone hacking, the Old Bailey heard today.
Summing up at the phone hacking trial, Mr Justice Saunders told the eight women and three men that they could view the behaviour of Rebekah Brooks and others as engaging in a “cover-up” of the true scale of hacking at the Sunday tabloid – or legitimately seeking to protect the reputation of the newspaper group.
Running through events after Mr Goodman’s arrest in August 2006, Mr Justice Saunders drew the jury’s attention to the meetings held between Mr Goodman and NI’s executives in the ensuing months, before he pleaded guilty in January 2007.
If Mr Goodman’s evidence was to be believed, the judge told the jury, the paper’s editor, Andy Coulson had told him he could have a job at the News of the World even if he went to prison, so long as he stayed quiet about the involvement of others.
Mr Coulson denied that suggestion and said he was merely acted out of concern for Mr Goodman’s predicament, to whom felt he a duty of care, the judge told the court.
There was nothing wrong about a company paying the legal fees for an employee charged with a criminal offence, providing the lawyer acted only in the interests of the defendant, he said.
But such a lawyer should not share information about the case with the company without the employee’s consent.
The judge said that Mrs Brooks, Mr Coulson and a News International lawyer had been informed by police in September 2006 there were around 100 to 110 victims of phone hacking, more than the eight named in the prosecutions that year of Mr Goodman and the NoW’s private detective, Glenn Mulcaire.
In March 2007, the judge added, Mrs Brooks had offered Mr Goodman a job editing “bookzines” about Princess Diana.
As NI chief executive in 2010, she also settled a civil hacking case brought by the publicist Max Clifford because she wanted to prevent a court order from forcing Mulcaire from naming who at the NoW commissioned him.
Mr Justice Saunders said that NI’s email deletion policy in 2010 had resulted in the loss of 3.5 million emails prior to 2005, when there was much hacking at the NoW.
The jury would have to determine whether Mrs Brooks as chief executive was implementing a sensible IT policy or had another motive for agreeing emails before 2010 could be deleted.
Addressing the jury about events after 2006, Mr Justice Saunders said: “It may not be the most successful damage limitation exercise ever mounted.”
All seven defendants deny the charges, which include conspiracy to hack phones, conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
The jury is expected to retire tomorrow.