DAY 2 – Tue 29 Oct 2013
By Martin Hickman
The phone hacking case involving Rebekah Brooks and other former journalists on Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers will be a trial of British justice, the judge said today.
Addressing a newly-empanelled jury in the case at the Old Bailey, Mr Justice John Saunders told them it was extremely important they listened to his directions in any criminal case. He said: “In this one not only are the defendants on trial but British justice is on trial.”
The judge made his remarks to the jury before criticising Private Eye magazine for running a picture of Mrs Brooks on its front cover. The cover read: “Halloween Edition: Horror Witch Costume Withdrawn From Shops.”
Mr Justice Saunders told the jury: “Unfortunately Private Eye has seen fit today to put out their November edition. It bears a picture of Rebekah Brooks on the cover. It is meant to be satire. You ignore it. It has no serious input and is not relevant to your considerations.”
The judge said the joke on the cover was in “especially bad taste.”
He added: “It is absolutely vital that you decide the case solely on the evidence and argument.”
The jury of nine women and three men had just been sworn in midway through the second day of the trial of eight defendants at the Central Criminal Court in the City of London.
Mrs Brooks, formerly chief executive of Mr Murdoch’s News International group of papers, faces five charges: one of conspiracy to hack phones, two of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office and two of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.
Her husband, Charlie, and personal assistant Cheryl Carter, and News International’s head of security, Mark Hanna, also face a charge of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.
Andy Coulson, formerly an editor of the now-closed News of the World and the Prime Minister’s press secretary, is accused of conspiring to hack phones and conspiring to commit misconduct in public office. Stuart Kuttner, managing editor of the News of the World, is also alleged to have conspired to hack phones. Clive Goodman, former royal editor of the paper, faces two counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.
Legal argument took up most of the first day and a half of the case, which is expected to last up to six months.
Making his opening remarks to the jury, Mr Justice Saunders warned them not to look up the case in newspapers or the internet, including Google, Twitter and Facebook. Material on the internet was “often fuelled by speculation,” he said, adding that it could be “offensive and demeaning to the defendants.” He said: “There may be a temptation to look something up. Do not.”
He suggested jurors consider whether it was wise to continue using Twitter or Facebook during the trial, in case they stumbled upon discussion of it.
The defendants deny the charges. The case is due to continue tomorrow when the prosecution is expected to open its case.