Rebekah Brooks appeared behind a high glass screen in the dock yesterday, alongside her husband Charlie and four other co-defendants including her long-serving personal assistant Cheryl Carter.
It was one of the most dramatic moments so far in the phone-hacking scandal which has embroiled News International and led to Ms Brooks being charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Until recently the most powerful woman in the British media, she was listed on the police charge sheet as Rebekah Mary Brooks, "unemployed of Churchill, Oxfordshire". In court she only spoke to confirm her address and date of birth before being told that she and her co-defendants would appear for a preliminary hearing at Southwark Crown Court on 22 June.
Her appearance at Westminster magistrates' court was the subject of an extraordinary level of interest. Although some of her co-defendants were forced to stand in a long queue and be photographed by the media as the court opened for the day, Ms Brooks, 43, showed typical media savvy by arriving late and being whisked into the building by police officers. She and her husband are accused of conspiring to pervert the course of justice by attempting "to conceal documents, computers and other electronic devices" from the Met's Operation Weeting team, which is investigating allegations of phone hacking and bribery of public officials at News International.
Ms Brooks, the company's former chief executive and previously editor of The Sun and the now defunct News of the World, is being represented by Hugo Keith, QC. He has previously fought the corner of clients including Muslim cleric Abu Hamza and Italian ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Also in court was Ms Brooks' former personal assistant, Cheryl Carter, 48, Mark Hanna, 49, head of security at News International; Paul Edwards, 47, Ms Brooks' chauffeur; and security consultant Daryl Jorsling, 39, who each face a single charge of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.
The defendants, who deny all the charges, were bailed for two weeks.