Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson at Old Bailey for start of first phone-hacking trial

 

Seventy journalists representing news organisations from four continents will crowd into the Old Bailey today to hear the opening of the trial of Downing Street’s former director of communications Andy Coulson and the former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks. The two former lieutenants of Rupert Murdoch, along with six others, face a series of charges linked to phone hacking at the now-defunct News of the World.

Already known in media shorthand as the “hacking trial”, the court’s examination of evidence going back to 2000 could last until April next year. The trial judge, Mr Justice Saunders, will be in charge of proceedings in Court 12, where an estimated 22 barristers and numerous solicitors will represent the prosecution and the accused.

Counsel for News UK, the rebranded name of Mr Murdoch’s UK print subsidiary, will also be in court. A lawyer representing alleged victims of phone hacking has also been granted formal permission to be in the court.

Interest from media organisations in the US, Australia, Europe and the Middle East has meant a special spillover room has been set up at the Old Bailey to accommodate reporters.

Charges against the accused were announced in July 2012. The legal adviser to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Levitt, QC, said that the decision to bring the charges followed evidence received from the Metropolitan Police Service’s specialist phone-hacking investigation, Operation Weeting.

Weeting detectives began their investigation in January 2011, working under the Specialist Crime Directorate inside the Met.

The work of the unit has been conducted alongside Operation Elveden, an investigation into allegations of inappropriate payments to police, and Operation Tuleta, an investigation into alleged computer hacking.

The trial is scheduled to examine seven counts that include conspiracy to intercept communications in the course of their transmission, conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office, and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

A second trial relating to evidence gathered from Operation Elveden is scheduled to begin after the hacking trial ends. A third trial, related to Operation Sacha, the Met’s investigation into allegations of an attempted cover-up of evidence linked to phone hacking, is also scheduled to follow.

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