Phone hacking trial: Defence set to take stand

By James Cusick, Cahal Milmo

Marathon News of the World court hearings only at half-way point and expected to continue until May

After hacking Daniel Craig's phone, the News of the World said he was having an affair with Sienna Miller. Photo / AP
After hacking Daniel Craig's phone, the News of the World said he was having an affair with Sienna Miller. Photo / AP

The prosecution in the phone-hacking trial has entered the final stages of its case against Rebekah Brooks and six co-defendants, who deny all the charges against them.

The jury was told the trial could last until May.

The defendants deny all the charges against them and the defence case is expected to start this month.

A total of 282 people had their voicemails accessed 6,813 times between 2004 and 2006, according to billing data from phone lines used to carry out the interceptions, the Old Bailey heard.

Earlier this week the court heard that senior executives at Rupert Murdoch's News International considered giving publicist Max Clifford a £200,000 ($400,000) annual contract in the expectation he would halt a civil phone-hacking damages claim.

Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, took part in the discussions in 2010 over how to cope with emerging lawsuits against the News of the World from alleged victims of voicemail interception and concerns that private investigator Glenn Mulcaire would be ordered to name people he had dealt with at the now defunct Sunday newspaper.

The court heard that Brooks had concerns about the potential deal with Clifford because it might look as if the company was trying to buy the PR man's silence.

Notes from a meeting between News International managers and lawyers in January 2010 said Brooks had persuaded Clifford to agree to a £200,000 deal to "represent the Sun/do business with the Sun" and if it was put in writing he would "call off the lawyers".

It was suggested that Brooks could even meet the publicist with the money. A memo of the discussion, read to jurors by prosecutor Andrew Edis, QC, said: "We either get something in writing or she could physically turn up with the cash to see him."

The trial was told there was a time pressure to conclude the deal before Mulcaire, who had been jailed in 2007 in relation to hacking the voicemails of members of the royal household, was compelled to disclose the identities of journalists employed by News International subsidiary News Group Newspapers (NGN), who were allegedly involved in eavesdropping.

Mulcaire has pleaded guilty to hacking-related charges at an earlier stage of the current proceedings.

The internal News International memo continued: "You have to think about what is worse - her doing a deal with Max which will be perceived as a cover-up or indemnifying Mulcaire so that he doesn't say anything about NGN.

"(Mulcaire) could say anything ... Brooks said it would look terrible if seen to be 'buying off Max."'

In a later email read to the hacking trial, Brooks said she was in the "throes of a settlement" with "slippery fish" Clifford and appeared keen to avoid any further disagreement with the PR man.

The court heard that a month after the January 2010 meeting, Mulcaire was ordered by a judge to divulge the names of those who he said had asked him to hack phones. After this, Clifford made a settlement "privately" with Brooks which included 200,000 to cover legal costs.

Detective Constable Richard Fitzgerald told the court he had examined billing data from Mulcaire's phone, two lines at the News of the World and the home phone number of the paper's former News royal editor Clive Goodman, who has denied conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office.

The data showed Mulcaire made 1,450 calls to 87 different voicemails in six months between 2005-2006.

Last week the trial focused on allegations the News of the World in 2005 accessed James Bond star Daniel Craig's phone and decided he was having an affair with actress Sienna Miller. The trial has spent a week analysing evidence connected to communications between Miller and Craig while Miller's relationship with actor Jude Law was breaking up.

A voicemail message from Miller to Craig in which she said she loved him was not "an important declaration" but something she said to all her close friends, the actress told the trial last weekend.

Miller, who gave evidence to the Old Bailey via a video link from New Orleans, where she was shooting a new film, told the court it was "absolutely feasible" that she had left the message in 2005 as alleged.

The court also heard that Dan Evans, a former News of the World and Sunday Mirror journalist who has pleaded guilty to phone hacking, hacked into the phone of supermodel Kate Moss and listened to an apparent declaration of love from Craig. Evans admitted intercepting a message from Craig while working at the Sunday Mirror. The message, according to Timothy Langdale, QC, defending Coulson, said: "I love you, I love you, I love you". Evans denied that the message could have been mixed up in his mind with the Miller affair, saying they were "two completely separate events".

Evans told the court his discovery of the message was seen by senior figures at the News International title, then edited by Andy Coulson, as confirming the start of a new romance involving the actor and his former co-star in the film Layer Cake.

However, speaking to Court 12 from an office in the United States, where she was accompanied by an FBI agent, Miller said: "The thing that's been slightly misconstrued about this voicemail message is the fact that I said 'I love you' and that this was some incredibly important declaration of love. "I've always ended my phone calls to Daniel saying 'I love you'."

- Independent

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