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Judge lays down law to jury in Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson News of the World hacking trial

By Margaret David and Ellen Branagh

Jurors hearing the case of former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and ex-spin doctor Andy Coulson have been told that "British justice is on trial".

Mr Justice Saunders gave the panel of nine women and three men at the Old Bailey detailed instructions after they were sworn in, warning them to consider the case only on the evidence and arguments presented in court.

He made particular reference to the cover of the current edition of Private Eye, telling them to ignore what he called a joke "in especially bad taste".

The judge told them: "I'm going to give you some extremely important directions.

"They are always important, but they could not be more important than they are in this particular case. In this case in a way not only are the defendants on trial, but British justice is on trial."

He added: "It is absolutely vital that you decide this case solely on the evidence and the arguments that you hear in court."

The judge warned them that there had been an unprecedented amount of publicity previously about the case, some of which was "offensive and demeaning" to some of the defendants.

He then showed them a copy of Private Eye, saying: "Unfortunately Private Eye has seen fit today to put out their November edition.

"It bears a picture of Rebekah Brooks on the cover.

"It's meant to be satire. You ignore it," he told them.

Jurors were warned not to discuss the case with anyone outside their 12, including on social media such as Twitter or Facebook, and were warned of previous cases where jurors were jailed for breaching instructions about discussing the case online.

Ex-NotW and Sun editor Brooks is also charged with 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.

She faces another two allegations of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, one with her former personal assistant Cheryl Carter (49).

It is alleged that they conspired to remove seven boxes of material from the News International archive.

The second count alleges that Brooks, her husband Charles Brooks and former head of security at News International Mark Hanna conspired to pervert the course of justice by concealing files and computers from police investigating claims of phone hacking and corruption of public officials.

Former No 10 spin doctor and ex-NotW editor Coulson is also facing two allegations that he conspired with the tabloid's former royal editor Clive Goodman (56) to commit misconduct in public office.

BACKGROUND

Former News International chief Rebekah Brooks (below) and ex-Downing Street spin doctor Andy Coulson are both accused of conspiracy to intercept communications in the course of their transmission. They allegedly conspired with former News of the World head of news Ian Edmondson, the tabloid's ex-managing editor Stuart Kuttner and others to illegally access voicemails over six years.

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