‘My personal life was a bit of a car crash,’ Brooks tells phone-hacking trial
Former News International boss claims she knew nothing about the £1,700 a week paid to private investigator
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.
Friday 21 February 2014
Rebekah Brooks knew nothing of the News of the World’s “arrangement” with Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who specialised in phone hacking, nor his £92,000-a-year contract, the jury at her trial has heard.
On her second day in the witness box, the former chief executive of News International said that during the period she edited the Murdoch-owned tabloid, she had not been told of the substantial sums paid out to Mulcaire – and had not been made aware of the £1,700 a week the private investigator received from the head of investigations, Greg Miskiw, of the now-defunct newspaper.
Mulcaire’s contract had been agreed and paid without her knowledge, she said, on a day in which more details of how the newspaper worked under her leadership.
On the opening day of her defence, Mrs Brooks said she had never heard of Mulcaire during the three years she edited the NotW. Miskiw and Mulcaire pleaded guilty to hacking-related offences.
Mrs Brooks ran the NotW between 2000 and 2003, after a meteoric rise at News International that started in 1989.
The court heard that the paper was making up to £30m a year in profit during her editorship. She confirmed to her lead counsel, Jonathan Laidlaw QC, that she was aware of other large payments – including sums made to the publicist Max Clifford and the contract given to the late film director, Michael Winner. “Mr Winner’s column [contract], I negotiated that myself,” she told the court.
Mrs Brooks said her “sign-off level” for payments in 2000 and 2001 was around £50,000. This meant requests for payments beyond this level should have come both to her and then-managing editor Stuart Kuttner.
Speaking about editorial spending she did authorise, she said the NotW paid thousands of pounds most weeks on celebrity pictures and that £1m was given to the footballer David Beckham by The Sun and the NotW to run excerpts from his autobiography. The Beckham deal was, she said, done in connection with the publisher Harper Collins, which was also owned by Rupert Murdoch.
Mr Laidlaw told Mrs Brooks that as the prosecution had made assertions linked to her private life, he would re-examine what had been said.
Mrs Brooks admitted that her personal life had involved several periods of “physical intimacy” with her former News International colleague, Andy Coulson. She told the court that the “truth” about her relationship with the former Downing Street communications director was a “dysfunctional” affair that added “complexity” to their “very good friendship”.
Part of the Crown’s case against Mrs Brooks is an alleged closeness to Mr Coulson. This has been described to the jury as a lengthy affair which lasted six years. Challenging this categorisation, Mrs Brooks said she first became close to Mr Coulson in 1998, and again between 2003 and 2005. Admitting that a further “brief period of intimacy” resumed in 2006, she said: “As I think probably anyone who knew [at that time] of my personal life it was a bit of a car crash.” She said the affair stemmed from being thrown together in the long hours of the newspaper industry, adding: “It shouldn’t have happened, but things did.”
During the prosecution evidence, the jury had been shown a letter found on one of Mrs Brooks’ computers. Although the letter was intended for Mr Coulson, there was no evidence it had been sent.
Speaking in the same slow and precise tone as she had done on day one of her evidence, and wearing a grey floral-patterned wool dress, she said the prosecution had wrongly described the letter.
She said of the letter written in February 2004: “I don’t know if anyone has been in the situation at a time of hurt: you come home and have a couple of glasses of wine and shouldn’t go on the computer. That’s what I did. I wrote my feelings down – these are my thoughts, probably with the intention of sending it but I probably thought better about it the next day.”
She told the court that “Andy and I weren’t meant to be” and used the same words to describe problems with her first husband, the former EastEnders actor Ross Kemp.
Trying to describe to the court her attempt to resurrect the on-off relationship with Mr Kemp, Mrs Brooks said that in 2001 they had talked of living together, buying a house, having children.
Mrs Brooks at this point almost broke down in the witness box, her eyes filled with tears and she asked for a “little break”, adding “sorry” as she quickly left the courtroom.
She later said that when she met her husband Charlie Brooks in 2007, “I was happy for the first time”.
Mrs Brooks, Mr Kuttner and Mr Coulson are charged with involvement in a conspiracy to hack phones. Mr Brooks, along with his wife, is facing charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. All the charges against them are denied.
The case continues.
On trial: Rebekah Brooks’s testimony
On payments to private investigator Glenn Mulcaire:
“I know I didn’t hear the name Glenn Mulcaire until he was arrested.”
On her affair with Andy Coulson:
“It’s probably very easy to blame work but the hours were very long and hard and you got thrown together. It was wrong and it shouldn’t have happened but things did.”
On her marriage to EastEnders actor Ross Kemp:
“Our relationship was a roller coaster, and so sometimes it was good, sometimes it was not so. Ross was a good man but the two of us weren’t meant to be.”
On her current husband, Charlie Brooks:
“When I met Charlie I was happy for the first time.”
On a News of the World journalist who was posing as a sheikh for a story:
“He would live the true life of a wealthy sheikh. He would have a Bentley and a penthouse suite. He always told me it was imperative.”
On the Countess of Wessex apologising to people after being indiscreet about them to an undercover journalist:
“So she wrote to everybody involved. She was particularly mean about Tony Blair and Cherie, William Hague, so she wrote these letters.”
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