Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Brooks 'involved in conspiracy'

Rebekah Brooks arrives at the Old Bailey in London
Prosecutors claim the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler was hacked while her family was hoping she was still alive

Ex-News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks authorised payments to a Ministry of Defence official for details of soldiers killed in action before they were officially released, a court has heard.

The jury at the Old Bailey heard that the ex-Sun and NotW editor also allegedly authorised journalists to pay a member of the armed forces for a picture of Prince William wearing a bikini.

Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC outlined the details as part of the charges Brooks is facing for allegedly conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office.

The former NI chief executive denies the charges, as well as allegations of phone hacking.

Mr Edis told the jury of nine women and three men that in 2006 while editor of The Sun, Brooks authorised payments to be made to an official who gave details about dead soldiers out before they were officially announced by the MoD.

"It may concern, for example, the death of active servicemen," he said. "It really matters when it is released and how it was released to other people affected by it."

The court was told about a series of emails to Brooks asking for authorisation for various cash payments, all said to have been okayed by her.

"These are emails which reveal what Mrs Brooks knew when she authorised the payments and the fact that she did authorise the payments and we know from the timeline what the payments refer to and the fact that they were made.

"The prosecution suggest that in behaving in that way Mrs Brooks was involved in a conspiracy to commit the criminal offence of misconduct in a public office and that she knew it."

The court heard that Brooks also authorised a journalist at The Sun to pay a member of the armed forces for a picture of William dressed in a bikini.

In June 2006, she was asked to authorise a cash payment of £4,000 for the picture of the royal, who was at a party dressed as a Bond girl, the court was told.

Mr Edis said an email from the journalist was forwarded to Brooks, which said: "My best contact at Sandhurst who has provided some great stuff over a period of months is offering us a picture of William at a James Bond party dressed as a Bond girl.

"He is wearing a bikini and an open Hawaiian shirt."

The court had earlier heard how the News of the World used phone hacking to get stories on the royals, including a claim that Prince Harry had broken rules at Sandhurst by asking an aide for help with an essay.

Mr Edis said that a story in the now-defunct tabloid, titled "Harry's aide helps out on Sandhurst exams", came from a voicemail illegally accessed by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire for former royal editor Clive Goodman.

Jurors heard the story had come from a voicemail message left by Harry for his private secretary Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, himself a former member of the armed forces, asking for information to help with an essay.

The court heard that the prince asked his aide if he "had any information at all" about the Iranian embassy siege - the scene of a British special forces operation in 1980 - adding: "Because I need to write an essay quite quickly on that but I need some extra info.

"Please, please email it to me or text me."

The tabloid also obtained information about Prince William getting "shot" during a training exercise in Aldershot, jurors were told.

Mr Edis said: "William found himself in the wrong place during a night exercise so he got shot, pretend shot.

"There is a voicemail, recording of a voicemail, in which Prince William says something about that. So it's a phone hack."

Jurors were also told that a top aide to the Prince of Wales was targeted by the NotW journalists, chasing false rumours that the Royal's private secretary Sir Michael Peat had been having an affair.

Prosecutors claim that Goodman paid for two copies of a Royal telephone directory from palace police officers, with the funds allegedly authorised by Andy Coulson.

Mr Edis said that the policeman, who was paid under the name David Farish, was never identified.

As he continued to outline the case on the third day of his prosecution opening, Mr Edis told the court how Coulson had ordered "do his phone", as the newspaper tried to investigate a story about Calum Best.

The court heard that Best, son of footballer George Best, was allegedly targeted by the NotW as it tried to investigate claims that he had fathered a child with a woman called Lorna Hogan .

As Coulson discussed the story with former head of news Ian Edmondson, he told him: "D o his phone."

The high-profile trial has already heard the revelation that Brooks and Coulson had an affair for at least six years, with extracts from a heartfelt letter from Brooks to her then deputy editor read to the court.

Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire; Coulson, also 45, from Charing in Kent; former NotW head of news Edmondson, 44, from Raynes Park, south west London; and the tabloid's ex- managing editor Stuart Kuttner, 73, from Woodford Green, Essex, all deny conspiring with others to hack phones between October 3 2000 and August 9 2006.

Former News International chief executive Brooks is also accused of two counts of conspiring with others to commit misconduct in public office - one between January 1 2004 and January 31 2012 and the other between February 9 2006 and October 16 2008 - linked to alleged inappropriate payments to public officials.

Coulson is also facing two allegations that he conspired with Goodman, 56, from Addlestone in Surrey, and other unknown people to commit misconduct in public office - between August 31 2002 and January 31 2003, and between January 31 and June 3 2005.

Brooks also faces two allegations of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice - one with her former personal assistant Cheryl Carter, 49, from Chelmsford in Essex, between July 6 and 9 2011; and a second with her husband, Charles Brooks, and former head of security at News International, Mark Hanna, and others between July 15 and July 19 2011.

The case was adjourned until Monday.

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