FORMER Sun editor Rebekah Brooks yesterday admitted the newspaper’s coverage of boxer Frank Bruno’s mental breakdown was a “terrible mistake”.
The 45-year-old said she approved the tabloid’s front-page story featuring the headline “Bonkers Bruno locked up” about the sports star’s health problems in 2003.
She told the hacking trial at the Old Bailey she only realised her “blind spot” when she returned home and was alerted by her then-husband Ross Kemp.
Brooks, a former News International chief executive, said: “I personally made lots of mistakes during my ten to 12 years as a newspaper editor. Some of which I felt were big mistakes I have tried to address. Ross had seen the front page and questioned how brutal it was. It was a terrible mistake I made.”
Brooks also admitted paying public officials for information on “half a dozen” occasions during her time as an editor.
But she denied knowing that a source paid by the Sun for stories over eight years worked for the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Brooks, 45, told how she sanctioned payments on “a handful” of occasions between 1998 and 2009, when she edited the News of the World and later the Sun.
Asked by her lawyer Jonathan Laidlaw QC if she ever sanctioned payments to public officials, Brooks answered: “Yes.”
Questioned on how many times, she replied: “A handful of occasions – half a dozen.
“My view at the time was that there had to be an overwhelming public interest to justify payments in the very narrow circumstances of a public official being paid for information directly in line with their jobs.”
The court has previously heard claims that MoD press officer Bettina Jordan-Barber received £100,000 for information she provided to the Sun.
Brooks said she did not know Ms Jordan-Barber was providing information to one of the newspaper’s journalists, who cannot be named, or that Ms Jordan-Barber was a public official.
She said it was standard in the industry for most journalists to keep their contacts secret
Asked if she should have known the identity of paid sources, Brooks said: “There should have been a process for that to come to me so I could, if anything, take responsibility.”
Earlier, Brooks said she had regular contact with “senior level” police officers, military chiefs and MI5 and MI6 figures.
She said public officials working for former prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown would often leak information during the pair’s “feud”.
Brooks, of Churchill, Oxfordshire, denies conspiring with others to commit misconduct in public office between 2004 and 2012. The former editor, who also denies conspiring to hack phones and conspiring to cover up evidence to pervert the course of justice, was yesterday in her fifth day of evidence.
Jurors were shown a number of Sun stories which had followed payments to Ms Jordan-Barber. She said she was “not sure” she would have paid for a 2006 story about an army instructor getting drunk and causing trouble on a bus, despite it being in the public interest.
“If I would have been asked to sanction payment for this, despite the public interest in this, I’m not sure I would have done”, she said.
The former editor said there were “never any complaints” from the MoD about the stories or their sources.
The trial continues.