Hacking trial: I approved ‘half a dozen’ payments to officials, Rebekah Brooks tells court

Jury told of 11 emails from a senior Sun journalist requesting payments to an 'ace military contact'

Rebekah Brooks authorised payments to public officials during the period she edited the News of the World and The Sun. However she claimed money was paid out by News International in only a “handful” of cases where there was “overwhelming public interest,” the Old Bailey has heard.

The qualified admission was given by the former chief executive of Rupert Murdoch's UK print division on the fifth day of her defence at the phone hacking trial.

Mrs Brooks said she had authorised the payments between 1998 and 2009.

Responding to questions on the payments from her defence counsel, Jonathan Laidlaw QC, she said: “My view at the time was that there had to be an overwhelming public interest to justify payment in those very narrow circumstances to a public official being paid for information directly in line with their job.”

She said this had occurred on “half a dozen” occasions, and that if a judgement had been made that there was no public interest defence, then payment was rejected because “it was considered to be illegal.”

Mrs Brooks was also questioned about the sums paid to an MoD press officer, Bettina Jordan-Barber.

Mrs Brooks told the court that  [at the time of the allegation] she had never heard of Bettina Jordan-Barber. She also said that public officials, including politicians, senior police officers, and military officials, passed information to NI titles without any request for money.

This was described to the court as a normal practice.

Mr Laidlaw was questioning Mrs Brooks in relation to one of four charges she is facing. This relates to corrupt payments given to public officials for information later published. She denies all the charges against her.

The former NI executive was asked about a sequence of specific payments to Ms Jordan-Barber, along with an email sent to her by a Sun journalist in November 2006.

Rebekah Brooks and her husband Charlie Brooks arrive at court Rebekah Brooks and her husband Charlie Brooks arrive at court (PA)
The email read: “Morning boss, I wondered if you would please authorise the following payments for my number one military contact?”

The court heard that the sum amounted to £4,500. Mrs Brooks emailed back within a minute with the response: “Of course”.

The jury has been told of 11 emails from a senior Sun journalist requesting payments to an “ace military contact” or for “my number one military contact.”

The court has earlier been told that Ms Jordan-Barber worked at the Army secretariat in Hampshire and had access to sensitive military information that formed part of briefings often given to government ministers.

Mrs Brooks  told the court she would not have had any reason to doubt the reporter, and added “I'm not reading this email as we are now, looking for something wrong.”

In evidence heard at the trial last December, Ms Jordan Barber collected cash from Sun through a travel agency in Surrey. As part of agreed facts between prosecution and defence teams, the former MoD official was paid £100,000 by The Sun.

Mrs Brooks authorised 11 payments to Jordan-Barber totalling £38,000.

Asked by Mr Laidlaw if the Sun reporter should have identified his source, and revealed that she was a public official, Mr Brooks said: “He probably should have, absolutely.” However she told the court that “Most reporters keep their sources pretty close to their chests.”

She said the MoD had never complained about stories [published in the NI titles she edited] or asked where information was coming from.

The former prime minister Gordon Brown had however complained to The Sun over stories that centred on the treatment of British troops.

Mrs Brooks is among seven defendants facing  phone hacking, bribery and perverting the course of justice charges. All deny the charges against them.

The case continues.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral