The trial of former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and ex-government spin doctor Andy Coulson began yesterday, with the pair facing charges linked to phone hacking and alleged corrupt payments to public officials.
They appeared at the Old Bailey for the first day of proceedings that could take up to six months.
On a day taken up by jury selection, a panel of about 80 potential jurors were brought into wood-panelled court 12 at about 12:30pm, and whittled down to 33. They were asked to fill in a questionnaire and given until today to make sure they could commit to the full length of the trial.
Mr Justice Saunders told them: “The trial … will take a considerable length of time. It is estimated that the case may last until Easter. I hope that with the assistance of counsel the case will finish more quickly, but people who sit on it should be prepared for the case to go on that long.
“To sit on a jury for this length of time, five or six months, is a significant disruption in people’s lives and we do appreciate that. We do need the assistance of members of the public like you to try this case. It is, as you will hear, an important case and we have to find a jury able to try it.”
Brooks and Coulson, both 45, are accused of conspiracy to intercept communications in the course of their transmission.
They are accused of conspiring with former News of the World head of news Ian Edmondson, 44, ex-managing editor Stuart Kuttner, 73, and others to illegally access voicemails between 2000 and 2006.
Former News of the World and Sun editor Brooks is also charged with two counts of conspiring with others to commit misconduct in public office, linked to alleged inappropriate payments to public officials.
She faces another two charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. It is alleged she and former personal assistant Cheryl Carter, 49, conspired to remove seven boxes of material from the News International archive. The second count alleges Brooks, her husband Charles and former News International head of security Mark Hanna tried to conceal documents, computers and other electronic equipment from police.
Former No 10 spin doctor and ex-News of the World editor Coulson faces two allegations that he conspired with the tabloid’s former royal editor Clive Goodman, 56, and persons unknown to commit misconduct in public office.
A jury is expected to be sworn in today. All eight defendants were released on bail.