REBEKAH Brooks could not be shown to have authorised payments to private investigator Glenn Mulcaire during her editorship at the News of the World, it was claimed in court today.
The suggestion came as documents shown at the Old Bailey also revealed that Mulcaire had a 12-month contract with the paper, signed in September 2001, in which it was agreed he would receive a total of £92,000 - in weekly payments of just over £1,700.
But it was claimed that Brooks - who edited the NotW from May 2000 to January 2003 - could not be shown to have signed payments to private investigator Mulcaire during her time as editor of the now-defunct tabloid.
Brooks ‘wasn’t authorised to pay Mulcaire’
Michael Gill, group financial controller of News UK, previously known as News International, told the Old Bailey that there were various levels of approval at the company so certain managers could only authorise payments up to a certain amount.
Brooks, Coulson and Kuttner were approved to authorise payments of up to £50,000, the court heard.
Jurors were shown lists of payments that went through the News of the World each month - drawn up by Mr Gill - including those made to Mulcaire.
In April 2002 - the month that stories were published that used material hacked from Milly Dowler’s phone - the court saw there were hundreds of payments of varying amounts, including four of £1,769 each to Mulcaire’s company Nine Consultancy Ltd.
Jonathan Laidlaw QC, representing Brooks, said the payments were just four of “many hundreds of payments for that month”, to which Mr Gill replied: “Correct”.
Under questioning from Mr Laidlaw he said that Brooks was not shown in the document as having authorised a payment to Mulcaire.
Mr Laidlaw said: “She never authorised a payment to Mr Mulcaire, either by his name or by any of the companies by which he was paid.
“Not a single one was authorised by Mrs Brooks,” to which Mr Gill told him that was correct.
When asked by prosecutor Andrew Edis QC about the £92,000 contract, which was set up with another of Mulcaire’s companies Euro Research and Information Ltd in September 2001, Mr Gill said it should have had both legal and editorial approval: “because you have always got to have the approval at the total value of the contract”.
Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire; former NotW editor Andy Coulson, also 45, from Charing in Kent; former NotW head of news Ian Edmondson, 44, from Raynes Park, south west London; and the tabloid’s ex-managing editor Stuart Kuttner, 73, from Woodford Green, Essex, are on trial for conspiring with others to hack phones between October 3 2000 and August 9 2006.
‘High standards’ claim
Earlier, in-house lawyer Justin Walford said he had never been asked for legal advice concerning phone hacking, and had never had any reason to suspect it had gone on at The Sun.
Mr Walford, who was deputy legal manager at News Group Newspapers, told the court he was mainly reponsible for legal checks on The Sun, but would stand in for legal manager Tom Crone in checking now-defunct sister title the NotW.
He said lawyers would “libel read” both The Sun and the NotW before they were published, then make suggestions for possible changes.
Describing Brooks, Mr Walford told jurors: “I think she was a very demanding editor. She wanted high standards, she was very demanding in my dealings with her.”
He said she would often argue with legal queries rather than accepting them without discussion. “She was passionate about the paper and what she wanted to get into the newspaper and we had many an argument about material going into the paper,” he said.
“She is a strong personality, she has strong views and she expected hard work and everyone pulling in the same direction to get stories into the newspaper. It was not the case where a lawyer could just make a few legal marks and it would be quickly forgotten. She would want an explanation why those marks had been made.”
‘Coulson wanted stories in paper’
Asked to describe Brooks’s fellow defendant Andy Coulson, Mr Walford said: “I think Andy Coulson was an editor who wanted to get stories into the paper.
“I didn’t libel read the paper (the NotW) that many times when he was editor but he listened to advice.”
He said Coulson would also argue over material to go in the paper, but would “take seriously” the legal advice he was given.
Mr Walford told the court: “Clearly editors want to get stories into the newspapers and, quite rightly, they will push the lawyer to agree the copy they want to put in.
“I try to give advice and if editors don’t like it, it’s up to them, it’s their decision to publish, not the lawyer’s.
“I have never felt under financial pressure or anything like that.”
He said he could not remember being asked to give any advice on phone hacking, and had no cause to suspect that any story had been sourced in that way.
And he told the court he could not remember private investigator Glenn Mulcaire’s name being mentioned until he was arrested alongside NotW royal editor Clive Goodman in 2006, and also said that after Goodman’s arrest, he was assured that phone hacking did not go on at The Sun.
Mr Walford said lawyers at the tabloid focused on the “end product” they were checking, not necessarily how the story was sourced.
Describing the professionalism of journalists at the “red top” tabloid, he said: “You don’t get to work on the Sun as a journalist unless you are very good. It’s a newspaper that has very high standards in that sense.”
He admitted it might be impossible for an editor to know the source of every single story, because of the sheer volume of stories produced - many of which did not even get into the paper.
Harry Scott, former night editor at the NotW, said it was important to make sure that material put in the paper was true.
He told the court: “I have to be sure in my own mind that a story was right or true in as much as I could.
“Obviously you’re not going to go putting things into the paper willy-nilly because you get in all sorts of trouble.”
The case was adjourned to tomorrow at 10am.
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