Rebekah Brooks: 'I feel vindicated by the unanimous verdicts'
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Thursday 26 June 2014
After 138 days in an Old Bailey dock, it was a performance befitting the hacking trial defendant whose regal bearing led to one of the lawyers referring to her as “HM”, Her Majesty.
Rebekah Brooks, the one-time Queen Bee of the Murdoch empire and wielder of a large chunk of Fleet Street’s influence, emerged from her London home and, with studied magnanimity, declared: “I am innocent of the crimes I was charged with. I feel vindicated by the unanimous verdicts.”
The debut appearance of Mrs Brooks some 72 hours after she was acquitted of all charges in the trial which put the highest reaches of British journalistic and political society under the microscope was not quite the high-octane affair that the gathered throng might have been hoping for.
Video: Brooks cleared of phone hacking charges
Flanked by her racehorse trainer husband Charlie, this time the script for Mrs Brooks called for no wounded anger or lashing out at the couple’s pursuers within Scotland Yard, the Crown Prosecution Service, Parliament or elsewhere in the media.
Instead, this was a determined canter to the moral high ground. On show were “dignity” and a brief flourishing of raw emotion from the former editor, who after all had faced separation from her infant daughter Scarlett if the jury had found against her. And an irony-laden indication from the authoress of countless doorsteppings of tabloid prey that she would like the cameras and notepad-wielding troops she once commanded to stay away from Chipping Norton.
Mrs Brooks genuflected to those whose phones were hacked - and lives damaged - by journalists in her employ but, as jurors decided, without her knowledge.
She said: “Of course, the last few years have been tough for both of us and for those closest to us. But, more importantly, they have been tough for everybody on all side that have been affected by the issues highlighted by this case.”
The former chief executive of News International - widely recognised as its plutocrat owner’s most lavishly-gifted schmoozer of prime ministers, Cabinet ministers and chosen movers and shakers - offered only the briefest glimpse of the scars of the last three years.
After 36 months of biting her tongue, Mrs Brooks unveiled a queenly poise that was less Marie Antoinette exasperation and more Elizabeth I froideur. Here was a redhead who had seen off her Armada of diabolical accusers and what had failed to finish her had made her stronger.
Her voice cracking as she reiterated her acquittal, she added: “I would like to say it has been a time of reflection for me. I have learned some valuable lessons and hopefully I am the wiser for it.”
In the aftermath of the verdicts which freed the Brooks and three of her co-defendants, but condemned Andy Coulson and provoked a judicial rebuke of his post-Wapping employer, it was indeed a day for carefully phrased reflection.
Labour MP Tom Watson, a key figure in the campaign to compel NI to admit that phone hacking had gone beyond its infamous “one rogue reporter” defence, said he would make no apology for standing up against a “very powerful company”.
But he added that his belief Mrs Brooks must have been a hands-on, all-knowing editor had now shifted: “She wasn’t the editor that I thought she was. I do accept she didn’t do it and I wish her well with her life and I hope she goes off and does something productive in the world.”
For her part, Mrs Brooks deflected the barrage of questions about her feelings for Mr Coulson, her one-time lover, saying only that she was “incredibly proud” of journalists she had worked with and vowing to support former colleagues who face further trials.
Mr Coulson will learn on Monday whether he is to face a retrial on a charge of conspiring to bribe public officials.
Pursued by reporters as she stepped in a Cotswolds-bound car, the newly-crowned Queen of Vindication said: “Now we are going home to spend some much-needed time with Scarlett.”
So, not a single expression of bitterness? Not quite.
Asked in the melee whether the couple stood by their description two years ago of their prosecution as a “witch hunt”, Mr Brooks said: “Yes.”
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