Hacking trial: Rebekah Brooks subjected to 'witch hunt', defence claims
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.
Wednesday 21 May 2014
The trial of Rebekah Brooks was likened to a “witch hunt” and a “medieval show trial” and her life, during seven months in court at the Old Bailey, had been placed under scrutiny “unprecedented in the history of British justice”.
Jonathan Laidlaw QC, counsel for the former chief executive of News International, told the jury in the phone hacking trial that Mrs Brooks’ position was similar to the “ducking” ordeals of witches in the 16th and 17th centuries. “The accused could never win,” he said, adding that it was “the allegation itself” that lead to witches being killed.
Standing only a few feet from the jury, Mr Laidlaw described the “ducking ordeal by water” where witches hands were tied and they were immersed in deep water. “If they floated, they were deemed a witch and guilty; if they sank and drowned they were innocent. Either way, “she was dead,” Mr Laidlaw said.
Although he told the jury “this has been no witch trial”, he qualified the description saying the prosecution’s case had “the approach” of a witch hunt.
Throughout the two days of his closing speech, which examined the evidence against Mrs Brooks, Mr Laidlaw offered highly personal and direct attacks on Andrew Edis QC, the lead prosecution counsel.
After accusing Mr Edis of interpreting every piece of evidence, regardless of what it said, as a sign of Mrs Brooks’ guilt, he said the prosecution had claimed her conduct in court had been “carefully scripted.”
Mrs Brooks, he said, was being accused of engaging in a “cynical type of dishonesty and perjury of the cheapest kind” and said the same charges could be “implicitly directed at me”.
In a calm but charged tone, Mr Laidlaw told the jury that accusations of a scripted performance by Mrs Brooks were also criticisms of his “professional conduct” as a barrister. “I’m not allowed to script a performance,” he said.
He told to jury to wait before they added his name to “the list of people who had been utterly ruined by the conduct of this wicked woman – and asked: ‘what would an innocent Rebekah Brooks have looked like in the witness box?’”
He told the court that nothing she could have said “would have opened the prosecution’s mind" to the possibility that she was not guilty of the charges.
Mrs Brooks, the former editor of both The Sun and the News of the World, is among seven defendants in the trial.
She is charged with being part of a conspiracies to hack phones, corrupt public officials by paying for information, and of perverting the course of justice. She denies all the charges.
Mr Laidlaw said that during the trial, which began in October last year, Mrs Brooks had been “scrutinised from every angle – a scrutiny unprecedented in the history of British justice”.
He added : “You can probably see deeper into Rebekah Brooks’ inner life than anyone else you have ever encountered, even those you feel you know well.”
Again directing his comments to the jury against Mr Edis, he added: “If what you’ve seen is a mask, then Mrs Brooks must be a witch with supernatural powers – no human mask could survive that [the trial] without cracking."
The trial continues.
Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
Prince held a Facebook Q&A and this is the only question he answered
Brad Pitt, on the moment he completely lost his temper with Clint Eastwood's son
Cheryl Cole officially the 'most dangerous celebrity' on the internet
Ebola virus in the US: What are the symptoms, what is it and is there a cure?
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
Benefits 'smart cards' plan revealed by Iain Duncan Smith to stop claimants spending welfare money on alcohol
- 1 Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
- 2 Prince held a Facebook Q&A and this is the only question he answered
- 3 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 4 35,000 walrus gather ashore on north-west Alaska beach 'for a rest'
- 5 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- < Previous
- Next >