Phone Hacking: Judge Targets September 2013 Trial Start, Rebekah Brooks Appears in Court

The former News International CEO and former "News of the World" editor Andy Coulson were among a group of people who attended a pre-trial hearing Wednesday.

LONDON - Former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks and former News of the World editor Andy Coulson were among a group of people who appeared for a court hearing here Wednesday ahead of planned trials for phone hacking and related charges that are being targeted for the fall of 2013.

The hearing, which mostly served to discuss timetables, process questions and bail conditions, took place at London's Central Criminal Court building, known as the Old Bailey. It lasted from about 9:35am until about 10:15am, with the judge telling defendants and laywers to expect a trial to start during the second week of  Sept. 2013.

Full timetables for key steps of the legal process before that are still being finalized, but the judge told prosecutors, defendants and their lawyers to work towards being ready for trial then.

There was also some debate about whether the phone hacking charges and separate charges that Brooks and a group pf people perverted the course of justice should be tried jointly or not.

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Photographers and camera crews had arrived outside the court building earlier in the morning. At around 8:15am local time, a group of around 20 photographers and TV camera people were waiting outside. Brooks and Coulson arrived just before 9am as police officers flanked the entrance to the court house.

Brooks, a long-time confidante of News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch who used to run the company's U.K. newspaper unit News International, and Coulson, who later served as communications director for Prime Minister David Cameron, were joined by five other journalists from the former tabloid that the conglomerate shuttered amid the phone hacking scandal. Also at the court hearing was private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, another key figure in the scandal. He arrived in court about 20-25 minutes late, which the judge called "not impressive."

Brooks, who wore a light brown coat over a white top and black skirt, sat at the back of the group of defendants. Coulson, wearing a dark blue suit, sat in the center of the first row.

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The seven former News of the World employees face a general charge of "conspiracy to unlawfully intercept communications" and charges related to specific cases of phone hacking. Mulcaire is accused in four cases of hacking against specific individuals.

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Brooks' husband Charlie and five others, who together with Brooks face separate charges of perverting the course of justice in the phone hacking scandal, also were in court on Wednesday. Those relate to alleged attempts to keep material from police investigating hacking claims.

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The former News of the World staffers appearing in court Wednesday in addition to Brooks and Coulson were former news editor Greg Miskiw, ex-head of news Ian Edmondson, former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck and ex-reporter James Weatherup. Former managing editor Stuart Kuttner didn't attend the hearing. Facing charges of perverting the course of justice along with Brooks were her husband, her former personal assistant and chauffeur, the former head of News International security and security staffers.

Twitter: @georgszalai

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