Phone hacking trial: After eight months, jury today begins sifting the mountain of evidence

Judge says they are under no pressure of time to reach a verdict

Political Correspondent

They are the two words the jury in the phone hacking trial may have waited months to hear. At 3.15pm in court 12 of the Old Bailey, Mr Justice Saunders said: “And finally.”

Fifteen minutes later the jury of three men and eight women, who have been in court almost every day since last October, stood up, turned left, and headed to the back room where today they settle down to considering the verdicts of seven defendants.

The trial of Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and five others – all charged in connection with alleged illegality inside Rupert Murdoch’s now-defunct News of the World tabloid – may already have become the longest criminal trial in English history.

A previous trial known as the “Stoke Newington Eight” lasted from May till 7 December 1972. The phone hacking trial has already passed that length. The jury’s deliberations will add to the months already chalked up. To assist the jury’s decisions, the lead prosecutor, Andrew Edis QC, explained how an “electronic paperclip”, a specialist hard-drive searching device, would enable them to search through the growing mountain of documents, folders, bundles and lists, that have covered every inch of the packed court’s desk and floor space for months. The judge described the evidence the jury will now pore over as “absolutely voluminous”.

How long will they take? Mr Justice Saunders told them: “You are under no pressure of time”. He hinted at the scale of the task ahead, saying: “If you wish to sit late [beyond the regular 4.30pm cut-off] you can. But don’t underestimate how tiring this will be.”

He told the jurors that to reach “true verdicts” they must only consider the evidence they have heard in the court. “Anything outside disregard,” he directed. The traditional warnings routinely heard throughout the Central Criminal Court were also delivered: you are now one, a jury, you must act together, 11 of you will decide, don’t discuss matters separately.

But there was a departure for this record-breaking trial because of the scale of the evidence to be considered. Mr Justice Saunders said at this closing stage juries are usually asked to “gather up all the papers” and take them to the jury room. “That will be inappropriate in this case,” he said. The judge’s forecast last October that the hacking trial would be “long” proved accurate. Then, he told the jury that if they knew anything about the case already, because it was “big news”, then they should forget it. He promised “What happens here will be memorable enough.” It was.

Mrs Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, Andy Coulson, the former editor of the NOTW and David Cameron’s former communications chief in 10 Downing Street, along with the former managing editor of the NOTW, Stuart Kuttner are charged with conspiracy to intercept phone messages.

Mr Coulson and Clive Goodman, the former royal editor of the NOTW, are charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office by paying a royal police officer for phone directories. Mrs Brooks also charged with paying an MoD official for stories and, along with her former personal assistant Cheryl Carter, of involvement in a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by destroying or removing evidence that would have been of interest to the police investigating illegality inside the NOTW.

Along with her husband, Charlie Brooks, and Mark Hanna, the former head of security at NI, they are charged with perverting the course of justice by concealing documents, computers and other electronic equipment, from the police. All the charges are denied.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home