Decision by Old Bailey leaves phone-hacking defendants in limbountil September 2013

Brooks and Coulson's trial is delayed by at least a year

James Cusick
Thursday 27 September 2012 10:55 BST
Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson outside the Old Bailey yesterday
Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson outside the Old Bailey yesterday

Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson were among 12 phone-hacking defendants who crowded into the dock of No 1 court at the Old Bailey yesterday to be told they would have to wait at least a year for their main trial to begin.

In their respective former roles of News International chief executive and Downing Street communications director, Ms Brooks and Mr Coulson were the confidants of media tycoons and prime ministers.

But yesterday the two ex-editors of the News of the World were at the mercy of the bureaucracy and customs of the Central Criminal Court.

Like their co-accused they said nothing other than to confirm their names to the judge, Mr Justice Fulford. Ms Brooks sat quietly at the back of three rows of chairs inside the wood-panelled dock.

In the front row were the NOTW's former assistant editor, Ian Edmondson, his former newsdesk colleague James Weatherup, the paper's former chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, and Mr Coulson. Another news desk executive, Greg Miskiw, sat in the second row with other defendants.

Through narrow barriers of glass they faced out into the court towards the judge, a sea of 19 wigged barristers, further rows of solicitors, other legal advisers and a packed public gallery.

The lead prosecuting counsel, Andrew Edis QC, revealed that the proposed date for the full trial to begin was 9 September 2013. The year's gap is to allow a workable timetable for disclosure and other pre-trial business.

The trial currently involves two cases and two police operations that are legally being managed together. Operation Sacha concerns charges of perverting the course of justice, and Operation Weeting is the Metropolitan Police's inquiry into phone hacking.

The dock should have contained 14 people. But the NOTW's former managing editor, Stuart Kuttner, was excused from attending yesterday's hearing, while counsel for the former private investigator Glenn Mulcaire apologised to the court that his client had been delayed.

Ms Brooks, Mr Coulson and six others are charged with conspiring to illegally access mobile phone voicemails. Ms Brooks is also charged with three counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Six others face one count of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, including Ms Brooks' husband Charlie, her ex-NI chauffeur, Paul Edwards, and her former PA, Cheryl Carter. They are accused of attempting to conceal evidence from police officers who were investigating phone hacking

Others accused of attempting to conceal evidence from the police include NI's former head of security, Mark Hanna, and two other security guards, Daryl Josling and Lee Sandell. All the defendants were bailed.

When the full trial begins, the defendants will be represented by some of the stars of Britain's criminal bar.

Next week Mr Edis will do battle against Ms Brooks' counsel, John Kelsey-Fry QC, and Clare Montgomery QC. Mr Kelsey-Fry is defending the former cabinet minister, Chris Huhne, and Ms Montgomery is representing his former wife, the economist Vicky Pryce. Both face charges of perverting the course of justice.

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