Hacking trial: Rebekah Brooks subjected to 'witch hunt', defence claims

 

Political Correspondent

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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
Dominique Alderweireld, also known as Dodo de Saumure, is the owner of a string of brothels in Belgium
newsPhilip Sweeney gets the inside track on France's trial of the year
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
Sport
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
News
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
music
News
i100
News
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
people
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea