Rebekah Brooks Q&A: Phone hacking trial begins today
Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks at Old Bailey for 'the trial of the century'
TWO former News of the World editors - Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson - and six others are due to go on trial today, two years after the phone-hacking scandal led to the newspaper's demise.
It is likely to be one of the longest and most high-profile criminal cases in recent history and has been dubbed the "trial of the century" by the Daily Telegraph's Peter Oborne. At least 100 witnesses are expected to be called and around 25 barristers will be present.
Accusations of phone hacking at the News of the World drew international attention, led to the newspaper's closure in July 2011 after 168 years of publication and prompted the high-profile Leveson Inquiry. The trial will begin in Court 12 at the Old Bailey today.
So who is facing trial and what are they charged with?
Brooks, who resigned as chief executive of News International in July 2011, faces five charges relating to conspiracy to hack phones, commit misconduct in public office and pervert the course of justice. Coulson, who resigned as David Cameron's former director of communications in January 2011, faces three charges in relation to his time as editor of the News of the World. These relate to conspiracy to hack phones and commit misconduct in public office. Ian Edmondson, the paper's former head of news, and Stuart Kuttner, the former managing editor, both face phone-hacking charges, while Clive Goodman, the former royal editor, is charged with two counts of conspiracy relating to alleged payments to public officials. Brooks's husband Charlie Brooks, her former PA Cheryl Carter and News International's head of security Mark Hanna are also charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. All eight have pleaded not guilty to the charges and are fighting to prove their innocence.
How long will the trial last?
Because of the large number of defendants and the range of different charges, the case is expected to take "months" to complete. Even just selecting a jury is expected to take an entire day, and the trial proper will begin later this week.
Has anyone else been charged?
Scotland Yard has spent two years and £15m probing hundreds of allegations of phone hacking, bribery and other criminal activity at UK newspapers. More than 100 people have been arrested and at least 20 have been charged under three operations codenamed Weeting, Elveden and Tuleta.
What is the difference between the three operations?
Operation Weeting was set up to investigate alleged phone hacking, primarily at the News of the World. The majority of arrests have come under Operation Elveden, which is investigating alleged payments made to public officials by journalists. A further 20 people have been arrested under Operation Tuleta, which was set up to investigate allegations of computer hacking.
Has anyone been convicted?
So far only two people have been convicted and both are police officers. A detective chief inspector from the Metropolitan Police was sentenced to 15 months in prison in January after being found guilty of offering to sell inside information about the phone-hacking inquiry. A Metropolitan police constable was sentenced to two years in prison in March after pleading guilty to conspiring to commit misconduct in public office. This included leaking security arrangements for Kate Middleton.
How will the trial impact upon the newspaper industry?
The Leveson inquiry, set up by David Cameron in July 2011, put press regulation firmly in the spotlight. The Old Bailey trial coincides with a 30 October deadline for the government's decision on press regulation. "The timing is brilliant for those seeking to regulate the press for the first time in 300 years," says The Week's political insider The Mole. This includes the three main political parties and the campaign group Hacked Off. National newspapers - bar The Guardian and FT - have rejected the proposal, describing it as "state-sponsored regulation". But as Murdoch executives face the prospect of long jail sentences if found guilty, the public are unlikely to lift a finger to stop the press being regulated.
What does the trial mean for David Cameron?
Cameron's judgement in appointing Coulson as his communications director has come under fire in the past. The Prime Minister was himself grilled on his relationships with senior News Corp executives at the Leveson Inquiry last year. Cameron, Brooks and her husband Charlie were members of the so-called Chipping Norton set, made up of influential figures living in the Oxfordshire countryside. Coulson was also a member of his inner circle, elements of which he brought with him to Downing Street. So far deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has shied away from exploiting Cameron's embarrassment but this might change as the general election approaches. Today MPs have been warned by the Solicitor-General Oliver Heald not to commit contempt of court by debating the criminal trial.