David Cameron is preparing for his appearance before the Leveson Inquiry later this month by receiving personal legal tutoring from a small group of leading lawyers. The legal briefings for the Prime Minister come in a week when the Leveson's Inquiry's investigation of News International moves uncomfortably closer to No 10.
Yesterday Lord Justice Leveson announced that Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor whom Mr Cameron eventually brought into 10 Downing Street as his communications director, and Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International and a family friend of the Camerons, will both give evidence next week to the inquiry at the Royal Courts of Justice
The timing of the appearance of both Mr Coulson and Ms Brooks will be a severe disappointment for the Coalition Government. The senior ranks of both the Tory and Liberal Democrat parties had hoped positive press coverage of the Queen's Speech on Wednesday could give them a needed boost in the polls.
However, if there is any good news, it threatens to be quickly derailed by headlines from the Brooks and Coulson testimonies which follow on Thursday and Friday. This will be the first time that Mr Coulson has spoken in public since his arrest last July in connection with allegations of phone hacking and police corruption.
He was editor of the NOTW between 2003 and 2007, the key period when a "culture" of illegal voicemail interception was rife inside the now-closed Sunday tabloid.
Ms Brooks was also arrested last July in connection with allegations of phone hacking and illegal payments to public officials. She was arrested for a second time in March on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.
Following James Murdoch's disclosure to Lord Justice Leveson of a stream of emails directly linking News Corp's lobbying efforts to the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, there are fears that evidence from Ms Brooks, who is understood to have retained text and email exchanges from Mr Cameron over a number of years, also holds the power to expose the closeness of News International's relationship with key politicians.
Lord Justice Leveson can order the disclosure of all the exchanges Ms Brooks holds. However, any evidence that potentially touches on criminal charges that could yet be brought against Ms Brooks or Mr Coulson will not be examined by the inquiry.
Ms Brooks was a key figure who connected NI and News Corp to the highest echelons of the UK government.
Last week, the inquiry revealed she had lunch with Mr Cameron and George Osborne, then the shadow Chancellor in January 2006. In May 2009, she and her husband Charlie Brooks lunched with the Camerons along with James Murdoch and his wife. Mr Cameron was a guest at Rebekah Brooks' wedding in June 2009. In November 2009 Ms Brooks and Mr Murdoch shared breakfast with Mr Cameron. Further meetings are noted in December 2009, January 2010 and May 2010.
Retired Met detective arrested over bribes
A former Metropolitan Police detective was arrested yesterday by police investigating illegal payments to public officials by journalists from Rupert Murdoch's News International.
The 57-year-old man, who served in Scotland Yard's special operations command whose responsibilities include counter-terrorism, was arrested at his Surrey home at 6.30am on suspicion of misconduct in a public office.
The retired officer is the 27th person to be arrested by officers from Operation Elveden, the Yard's investigation into alleged bribes paid by journalists to police officers and public servants including civil servants and members of the military.
The Yard said the man, who was being questioned at a south-west London police station while a search of his home was carried out, was not involved in the original investigation into phone hacking by the News of the World in 2006.
The force refused to disclose the rank held by the officer when he retired or in which part of the special operations command he had served.
The latest arrest was based on information provided by News Corporation's management standards committee – the body set up to investigate allegations of wrongdoing inside NI titles, including The Sun. Eleven current and former staff at The Sun, including its royal editor, have so far been arrested.
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