UK phone-hacking trial set for September 2013
EX-News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson will go on trial in September 2013 on charges relating to phone hacking at the British tabloid.
The decision leaves the scandal hanging over British Prime Minister David Cameron for another year because he is a close friend of Brooks and he employed Coulson as his director of communications.
A judge set the date after several defendants appeared at the Old Bailey court in London on Wednesday.
The phone-hacking scandal led to the closure of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid, which had a circulation of around 2.7 million, in July 2011.
Brooks, 44, is a former head of Murdoch’s British newspaper wing News International, while Coulson, also 44, was the prime minister’s media chief until January 2011.
Judge Adrian Fulford gave directions for the management of two separate cases: one relates to the illegal hacking of mobile phone voicemails, while the other is over alleged attempts to pervert the course of justice.
The proposed trial date was September 9, 2013, with a further preliminary hearing on December 12 and 13 this year, Fulford said.
Brooks, dressed in a cream coat and a black skirt, and all the other defendants spoke only to confirm their names and their bail was extended.
Appearing with Brooks and Coulson on the phone-hacking charges were the News of the World’s former news editor Greg Miskiw, former head of news Ian Edmondson, former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, reporter James Weatherup and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
Stuart Kuttner, the News of the World’s former managing editor, has also been charged with phone hacking, but was not in court on Wednesday.
Police say the case involves the hacking of 600 people’s voicemails, including Hollywood stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and Manchester United footballer Wayne Rooney.
Separately, Brooks faces three charges of perverting the course of justice by removing boxes of material from the archive of News International (NI) and trying to hide documents, computers and other material from police.
The charges relate to the last days of the 168-year-old News of the World in July 2011, as Murdoch was shutting it down.
Rebekah Brooks’ racehorse trainer husband, Charlie Brooks, her personal assistant Cheryl Carter, her chauffeur, Paul Edwards, NI head of security Mark Hanna, and Daryl Jorsling and Lee Sandell, who provided security for Brooks supplied by NI, also face one charge each.
The judge imposed tight reporting restrictions on the case, including whether any pleas were entered.
Brooks is being represented by John Kelsey-Fry, who has previously defended football manager Harry Redknapp.
Clare Montgomery, who is acting for the Swedish government in its bid to extradite Julian Assange, was defending Coulson.
Brooks edited the News of the World from 2000 to 2003 before taking up the same post at The Sun, Murdoch’s top-selling British daily tabloid.
At one time she moved in the highest circles of British politics and testified to a press ethics inquiry in May about her close friendship with Cameron.
She said Cameron signed off text messages to her “LOL”, thinking that it meant “lots of love” and not “laugh out loud”.
She resigned as NI chief executive days after the News of the World closed.
Coulson edited the News of the World from 2003 to 2007 and went on to become Cameron’s communications director, leaving that post in January 2011.
Cameron’s closeness to two of the key figures in Murdoch’s empire led to criticism from his political opponents and he set up a judge-led inquiry into the ethics of the British press in response.
Senior judge Brian Leveson is due to release his findings, which are expected to include recommendations on the regulation of newspapers, later this year.