Hacking trial: Rebekah Brooks cleared of one charge over Prince William bikini photo

Former News of the World editor still faces four other counts as she begins giving evidence at Old Bailey

The former News of the World and Sun editor Rebekah Brooks
has been found not guilty of one of the five charges she faced in the
phone-hacking trial at the Old Bailey.

Giving evidence for the first time today, Ms Brooks was earlier formally cleared of one count of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office, after a judge found there was “no case to answer” in relation to a photo of Prince William wearing a fancy dress bikini.

It had been alleged that she had sanctioned a payment of £4,000 to a public official to acquire the picture, which showed the prince dressed as a Bond girl during a party at Sandhurst.

While the picture was never published, it was reportedly the basis of an exclusive story in The Sun in September 2006, while Ms Brooks was editor, which ran under the headline “Willy in a Bikini” and was accompanied by a mocked-up image of Prince William in a green swimsuit.

Judge Mr Justice Saunders instructed the jury at the Old Bailey to formally acquit Brooks, saying: “I have decided that there is no case for Ms Brooks to answer on count four. That is the charge relating to a picture of Prince William in a bikini.

“Whether or not there is a case to answer is for me to decide.”

Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC had previously told the court that Ms Brooks received an email asking her to approve payment to a Sun journalist’s contact who was “offering us a picture of William at a James Bond party dressed as a Bond girl”.

Jurors at the phone-hacking trial will still decide whether Ms Brooks, 45, is guilty of four further offences - one count of conspiring to hack phones, two of perverting the course of justice, and one of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office.

At the start of Ms Brooks’ defence case today, her lawyer Jonathan Laidlaw QC said jurors might have found the trial hard to follow so far.

He told the court that “on occasions absolutely critical information was overlooked or left out” by the prosecution, and said Ms Brooks was not on trial “because she was the editor of a tabloid newspaper” or “for any political views she may hold”.

Taking the stand herself, Ms Brooks gave an account of her career as a journalist, rising through the ranks from sweeping the floor to becoming editor.

Asked about major stories over her career, she told the court how the newspaper paid around £50,000 to £80,000 to footballer Paul Gascoigne for a  story about domestic violence.

“It was the fact that I got Paul to talk to me about such a sensitive subject,” she said. “It set out the ground work for me doing that time and time again with other high-profile people who were having difficult circumstances.”

Speaking about another major story, Ms Brooks described the lengths the News of the World went to in preventing prostitute Divine Brown talking to other newspapers about her relationship with Hugh Grant.

“It all seems so silly now but actually it was really important,” she said.

Ms Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire, denies all charges against her in the phone hacking trial.

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

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor