Hacking trial: Rebekah Brooks - 'I knew nothing of Mulcaire contract'

Brooks admitted that, as editor, an expense as big as that should have been run past her for approval

Former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks knew nothing about a contract the newspaper had with private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, she has told the Old Bailey.

Asked by her lawyer Jonathan Laidlaw QC if she knew anything about the contract, worth £92,000 a year, the former News International chief executive said: "No, not at all."

Brooks admitted that, as editor, an expense as big as that should have been run past her for approval. The court has heard it is claimed that the contract was organised by former news editor Greg Miskiw, who has pleaded guilty to conspiring to hack phones.

Yesterday, as she went into the witness box for the first time, Brooks denied knowing about Mulcaire - who has also pleaded guilty to phone hacking - and said his activities were not drawn to her attention during her time as editor of the News of the World (NotW) between 2000 and 2003.

Mr Laidlaw asked the 45-year-old today: "If someone, say Greg Miskiw, was planning to pay £92,000 a year to someone, or a company, should that have been something brought to your attention?"

She replied: "Yes."

Brooks said that, in 2000 and 2001, her "sign-off level" for payments was around £50,000, so any authorisation for something bigger than that should not only have come to her, but would have had to go above her to then-managing editor Stuart Kuttner.

"Anything over £50,000 would go again to the managing director or to the CFO (chief finance officer)," she said.

Mr Laidlaw asked her: "Was that arrangement that Miskiw had come to with Mulcaire drawn to your attention?"

Brooks replied: "No, it wasn't."

The court heard that when Brooks became editor of the now-defunct Sunday tabloid in May 2000, the editorial budget allocated for the year July 1 2000 to June 30 2001 was around £23.4 million, with a forecast annual revenue of around £160 million and profit of around £30 million.

Brooks told the court: "The NotW was very profitable during my editorship but then it was a good time for newspapers back then.

"I think every year that I was there we had a healthy profit and I think it stayed around the time."

Brooks, of Churchill, Oxfordshire, denies conspiring to hack phones, conspiring to commit misconduct in public office, and conspiring to cover up evidence to pervert the course of justice.

David Beckham was paid a million pounds to run excerpts of his autobiography in the Sun and News of the World, Brooks said.

The former tabloid editor gave examples of "expensive" one-off payments for what was termed exclusive "buy-ups".

She revealed the behind-the-scenes deals made with celebrities, PR guru Max Clifford and Big Brother contestants such as "Nasty Nick".

On Beckham, she said: "He had two goes at an autobiography. One in 2000 and one when I was at the Sun.

"One of the autobiographies, I think later at the Sun, was done with (publisher) Harper Collins, owned by NewsCorp, and we shared it with the News of the World and Sun. That was about one million pounds."

She said the NotW would have made a combined deal for Beckham's autobiography and a column which he wrote for the Sunday paper.

Brooks said the tabloid would spend thousands on celebrity pictures, as well as front-page stories, including some brokered by Mr Clifford.

One example was about Siamese twins, for which the newspaper paid £50,000 to £60,000.

Brooks, wearing a grey chiffon dress, said: "I think this was a Max Clifford situation... I remember it being very expensive but I can't remember. That's why I remember it being Max because it was always expensive with him."

Asked about the extent to which private investigators were used by the tabloid from 2000 to 2003, she said: "It was quite normal to have private detectives working on the paper.

"They would be helping, in the main, tracing people who were difficult to find for whatever reason, that kind of area."

Asked if she would be expected to know a private investigator was being used on a story, she said: "No, not particularly."

She said there were some specific occasions when the use of a private detective was raised with her, such as discussions as the newspaper carried out its campaign for Sarah's Law.

"I remember we had to use quite a few private detectives during Sarah's Law," she said.

"It was very difficult to trace convicted paedophiles who were then living in the community," she said, because often all they had to go on was a court report of when someone had been sentenced.

"It came up in conference, quite a lot of the difficulties that my desks faced trying to execute my idea."

The mother-of-one appeared to lose her composure as the subject of having children with her ex-husband Ross Kemp was raised, and was close to tears as she asked for a break.

Her barrister, Jonathan Laidlaw QC, apologised for having to quiz her about her love life, including her relationship with former EastEnders actor Kemp, and her affair with her former deputy Andy Coulson.

She met Kemp in 1995, and they became engaged the following year but split in 1997.

A year later they re-kindled their relationship, and by 2001 they talked about children and marriage.

Brooks, wearing a grey dress with scalloped detail, said: "We brought up the subject of... taking things more seriously and buying a house and getting married and having children."

Mr Laidlaw said " I'm sorry I have to do this" and pointed out that Brooks had lowered her voice as she spoke about children.

Brooks, 45, appeared to well up as she asked for a break.

The court heard that the couple eventually split in 2005, but it was amicable.

Brooks said: " I am sure if Ross was here he would say the same. Our whole relationship was a rollercoaster, and so sometimes it was good, sometimes it was not so. I think that's how he would describe it."

As Mr Laidlaw moved on to her relationship with former deputy and co-defendant Coulson, Brooks said: " Andy had always worked on The Sun and me the NotW in our early careers and so we didn't work together until 1998."

She said the pair became good friends through fellow journalist Chris Blythe, a close friend of Coulson's, who died in an accident abroad.

She said: "Andy and I in 1996 were good friends, we became good friends through Chris Blythe, but it wasn't until 1998 that Andy and I became close."

The court heard that they became "close" again between 2003 and 2005, when things were tough with Kemp.

Under questioning from Mr Laidlaw, Brooks admitted that there was a "further brief period of intimacy" with Coulson in 2006.

Asked about the Press Complaints Commission's (PCC) Editors' Code of Conduct - which includes guidelines for how journalists and newspapers should operate - Brooks said it was "central to anything".

She said: "The PCC is press self-regulation. Obviously there are perfectly good clauses as you read through, but the best way to interpret the importance was the alternative to self-regulation.

"We all, as a collective industry, wanted to show commitment to the code and adhering to the code to keep self-regulation going."

PA

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