Hacking Trial: Rebekah Brooks Dubai Holiday in Focus
LONDON – The trial on phone hacking and related charges here on Tuesday started focusing completely on its evidence and witnesses phase.
The prosecution and defense Tuesday morning questioned a police officer about the interaction between former News International CEO and News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks and her staff while she was on vacation in Dubai in early 2002 as the tabloid prepared to run a controversial story alleged to have used information obtained by phone hacking.
The officer on the witness stand focused on the police's probe into the alleged hacking of voicemail messages of a murdered school girl. The NOTW story in question focused on her.
The 12-member jury in the case against eight defendants, including Brooks and former NOTW editor Andy Coulson, heard that at the time Brooks was in Dubai with her then-boyfriend, actor Ross Kemp. The two later married and separated. Brooks is now married to Charlie Brooks, who is also a defendant in the case.
The jury also heard that Brooks and Coulson, then her deputy editor, exchanged text messages while she was in Dubai and that Brooks was in regular contact with her news desk.
The prosecution said that the Brooks-Coulson text message exchange happened after a first edition of the paper had printed that week, which allegedly quoted from the school girl's voicemails. The story was changed in the second edition and those references were taken out.
But Brooks' lawyer raised doubts about the suggested timeline of calls and text messages. When he asked the police officer if the times of calls and texts were listed by U.K. or Dubai time zone, a difference of three hours, the officer said he couldn't tell for sure.
Discussing Brooks' contact with staff from Dubai, her lawyer further highlighted that his client also made a call to her mother and the Artists Rights Group, which represented Kemp, concluding that her amount of phone and text messaging use was not unusual for her during a time of vacation. The police officer on the witness stand to discuss her phone records agreed.
During a lighter moment, Brooks' lawyer mentioned that Kemp was best known for his role in long-running BBC soap opera EastEnders. "I will have to take your word for it," the police officer on the witness stand said. Brooks' lawyer replied that most people knew that, saying that "20 million or so" watched the soap at the time.
Part of the first half of the trial day also focused on how much play the controversial story in question got in comparison to other NOTW coverage. Brooks' lawyer suggested that the story had regularly made the tabloid's pages, but other stories tended to dominate the front page.
For example, he mentioned that during Brooks' trip to Dubai, a front-page story focused on one of Kemp's fellow EastEnders stars.
Only four of the eight defendants – Brooks, her husband, Coulson and former News International security official Mark Hanna – were in the dock Tuesday morning after Judge John Saunders had ruled that not all had to attend on days where evidence focused on issues that they weren't involved in.