The first trial from the phone-hacking scandal that sank Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World opened yesterday with his key aide Rebekah Brooks and British Prime Minister David Cameron’s former media chief Andy Coulson in the dock.
They are among eight defendants facing a jury for the first time over the scandal two years ago that rocked the British newspaper industry and sent shockwaves through the British establishment.
Brooks, 45, arrived at the Old Bailey court in London to a storm of photographers’ flashes, accompanied by her racehorse trainer husband Charlie, who is also on trial.
Dressed in a camel-colored coat, Brooks looked relaxed and smiled as she walked into the court building, while her husband wore a smart blue suit.
Coulson, also 45, arrived with his legal team.
The charges range from illegally hacking mobile phone voicemails to bribing public officials for stories.
Brooks, a former chief executive at Murdoch’s News International (NI) operation, Charlie Brooks and NI’s former chief of security, Mark Hanna, are also charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by hiding potential evidence.
The evidence set to be presented about the furor that forced Murdoch to shut down the Sunday tabloid in 2011 could cause further discomfort for Britain’s establishment and reveal the links between newspapers, politicians and police.
Cameron faces embarrassment given his friendship with Brooks and his decision to hire Coulson as his director of communications after he quit as editor of the News of the World over the scandal.
The voicemail hacking is believed to have been carried out on more than 600 victims, including celebrities such as Paul McCartney.
The trial was originally scheduled to last four months, but due to its complexity it could now run for six months. The trial formally opened yesterday, but the prosecution’s opening statement is expected to come later in the week as yesterday was taken up with jury selection.
Brooks, 45, who rose from a secretary to edit the News of the World and its daily sister paper, the Sun, and became one of Murdoch’s closest confidantes, denies phone hacking, conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office and perverting the course of justice.
Her husband, Hanna and personal assistant Cheryl Carter also deny perverting the course of justice.
Also on trial are former News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner and head of news Ian Edmondson, who both deny phone hacking. The final defendant is former royal editor Clive Goodman, who is charged along with Coulson of bribing officials and also pleads not guilty.
A second trial involving several journalists from the Sun accused of bribing officials is provisionally due to start in February.