Hacking Trial: Judge Tells Jury to Weigh Arguments for Cover-Up Versus 'Damage Limitation'
LONDON – The judge in the phone hacking trial here on Tuesday continued his case summary before he is set to send off the jury to start deliberations later this week.
Judge John Saunders has since Wednesday been summarizing the charges of hacking into cell phones to retrieve voice messages, bribing public officials and an alleged conspiracy to "pervert the course of justice," recounting key arguments of the prosecution and defense. The seven defendants, charges against whom differ, include former News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson and Brooks' husband Charlie.
On Tuesday, Saunders started off by focusing on the question of whether executives at News International, then the owner of the News of the World and the U.K. newspaper arm of what was back then known as Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., conspired to cover up the extent of phone hacking as the prosecution has claimed.
In the morning session, he focused on Coulson and Clive Goodman, the former royals expert for the News of the World, which News Corp. shuttered in 2011 amid the hacking scandal.
Summarizing how Goodman was arrested in the summer of 2006 amid the first hacking allegations, the judge said the prosecution argued there was a corporate cover-up to hide other people's guilt, while the defense said Coulson's reaction, including an offer to keep Goodman employed, was focused on "damage limitation" for the paper, its staff and News International, the then-name of News Corp.'s U.K. newspaper arm.
Jurors would have to decide which side to believe, he said. And they have to decide whether Coulson knew of possible more wide-spread hacking beyond Goodman or not, he said.
Saunders mentioned Murdoch a few times on Tuesday, recounting past evidence that the media mogul told Brooks not to resign amid the hacking scandal and the shuttering of the News of the World until he arrived in the U.K. and had a conversation with her.
The judge also recounted that Murdoch was described as "concerned" by the initial hacking allegations in 2006 and as saying that the most valuable asset of a newspaper was readers' trust.
Son James Murdoch also was mentioned Tuesday as Brooks as CEO of News International reported to him back at the time of the erupting hacking scandal.
Once Saunders wraps up his summary, the jury will start deliberating. It will deliver its verdicts as soon as it reaches a decision on all counts.