Hacking trial: Closing NOTW was ‘considered’ before Milly Dowler phone hack was revealed
James Cusick is political correspondent of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. As an experienced member of the lobby, he has previously worked at The Sunday Times and the BBC. His career as a journalist has been split between print and television, including senior positions as producer with Sir David Frost and at BBC Newsnight. He is also an award-winning golf and travel writer, working for over a decade as the UK contributing editor for one of the USA’s leading golf magazines. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC and CNN. He lives in London.
Monday 03 March 2014
News International considered closing the News of the World in the belief it had become a “toxic brand” due to phone hacking allegations months before revelations that voicemails of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler had been accessed, the hacking trial at the Old Bailey has heard.
Details of the internal concern circulating among executives, which pointed to a “shut-down option” being examined months before the paper was actually closed in July 2011 in light of the Dowler case, were described on Monday by Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of Rupert Murdoch’s UK print division.
Mrs Brooks, appearing in the witness box for the seventh day of her defence evidence, said the discovery of three emails alleged to connect a senior journalist at the NOTW to phone hacking had substantially shifted the company’s perception of their legal position.
The emails, the court heard, related to the former Labour cabinet minister, Tessa Jowell, royal family member Lord Frederick Windsor and Joan Hammel, an adviser to former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.
Mrs Brooks said that following the discovery of the emails around New Year 2010 in NI’s IT archive, the police were notified because “in any view it was evidence of criminal misconduct”.
Mrs Brooks told the court of a “discreet” meeting at the Halkin hotel in Victoria that she arranged with Andy Coulson, who was then in charge of communications at 10 Downing Street, to inform him of the new potentially incriminating information against the company.
She said that Mr Coulson, a former editor of the NOTW before being appointed to head the Conservatives’ communication operation, told her that he was “becoming the story” and it was becoming “impossible” for him to do his job. Mr Coulson resigned from his Downing Street post less than a week after the Halkin meeting.
The court heard that civil claims connected to phone hacking were mounting, and that fear of commercially “sensitive” information leaking from NI’s London’s headquarters, including News Corp’s bid to take control of all of the satellite broadcaster, BSkyB, had led to a high level of “paranoia”.
The unease, the court was told, extended to having the offices of senior staff “swept” for listening devices.
With further arrests of senior journalists, including a raid on the desk of one journalist by police officers, Mrs Brooks said that company lawyers had told her there was “a growing concern” that she could be arrested.
Focusing on events in June 2011, Mrs Brooks told the court of email exchanges involving NI executives who had been put in charge of responding to, and dealing with, emerging phone hacking revelations.
She said the NOTW “brand” according to one executive, was “too toxic” and that shutting down the Sunday tabloid was being considered. An apology the company issued was designed to show that “we [News International] get it”, she said.
Mrs Brooks, along with Mr Coulson and five others, are facing charges including conspiracy to illegally access voicemails, bribing public officials, and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. All deny the charges against them. The case continues.
BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
Isis propaganda video shows 25 Syrian soldiers executed by teenage militants in Palmyra
Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
- 1 BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
- 2 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 3 Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
- 4 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
- 5 Swedish minister gives strongest case yet on why EU should stop turning away asylum seekers