By Martin Hickman
Phone hacking and bribery of public officials happened on only a few occasions during Rebekah Brooks’ editorship of national newspapers, her lawyer told the Old Bailey today.
Making his closing speech at the phone hacking trial, Jonathan Laidlaw QC said that the charges of conspiracy to hack phones and conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office came down to a few numbers.
“In her three years as editor of the News of the World [there were] 12 phone hacking entries in Mulcaire’s notes; in her six years editing the Sun, 11 times she said ‘Yes’ to paying a source, without knowing the source was a public official,” he told the jury.
“That is what Mrs Brooks says went on without her knowledge over nine years. It’s not very much, is it?”
Beginning the second day of his speech, Mr Laidlaw attacked the former wife of golfer Colin Montgomerie, Eimear Cook, who said in her evidence that Mrs Brooks had chatted about phone hacking at a lunch in 2005.
The police may have taken the affluent, well-spoken former wife of a famous golfer at “face value,” Mr Laidlaw said. He added: “But she was a liar.”
Mrs Cook’s insistence that Mrs Brooks had laughed about her arrest for assaulting her husband Ross Kemp, when that arrest had taken place after the lunch, meant her testimony could not be trusted, he told the court.
And it was not just that Mrs Cook had got it wrong: “She was lying.”
The lawyer asked: “Was there a personal vendetta harboured against Rebekah Brooks?”
He reminded the jury that Mrs Brooks had not taken up Mrs Cook’s suggestion that the Sun write something about domestic violence, because Mrs Cook had declined to take part in the coverage. He also asked whether Mrs Cook may have wanted to go to the police to help her civil case against the News International for “aggravated” damages for phone hacking.
Mr Laidlaw cited an email Mrs Brooks had sent while editing the News of the World to its news editor Greg Miskiw in 2001 in which she warned the paper must learn the lessons of the paper’s fake sheikh sting on Sophie, Countess of Wessex.
Mrs Brooks wrote: “All our subterfuge and entrapment must be justified 110%. We have to be so careful and make sure everything we do is within the law.”
Addressing the jury, Mr Laidlaw asked: “Are these the words of an editor who is a knowing party to wide-scale phone hacking? Is that what she would ever write if it had been true that she was knowingly involved in phone hacking?”
Turning to the charge of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office, he said there was a public interest to many of the stories supplied to the Sun by a Ministry of Defence official, Bettina Jordan Barber.
But he added that regardless of that Mrs Brooks had not known that almost £40,000 she approved for a Sun reporter’s top military source was being paid to a public official.
The payments were approved after Mrs Brooks received 11 emails between 28 November 2006 and 4 August 2009.
“That is a period of 32 months,” Mr Laidlaw said.
“You cannot can you just concertina the emails together from that distance apart and ask yourself what do those emails tell you when you put that together. To do that is artificial. To do that is unfair.
“By the time an email arrived, Mrs Brooks may have forgotten the last one.”
He said Mrs Brooks was receiving a vast quantity of information, saying that in July 2011 her BlackBerry seized by the police had 8,000 emails from just a six week period.
In addition, the lawyer said, the Sun reporter who had requested payments for his military source was highly experienced and trustworthy.
Mr Laidlaw told the jury: “These 11 emails do not prove that Mrs Brooks knew that the reporter’s source was a public official…
“She would not have been alive to the possibility that he would be paying public officials. Her mindset was that he would come to her explicitly if he was, and her evidence – which has not been challenged by the prosecution – was that he did not.”
Mr Laidlaw told the court: “She did not read these emails like a detective looking for clues.”
He is expected to conclude his closing speech this afternoon.
All defendants deny the charges.