FORMER tabloid editor Rebekah Brooks was accused in court yesterday of carrying on a “cover-up” over the extent of phone hacking at the News of the World.
Brooks was repeatedly quizzed about parent company News International’s stance from 2007 to 2009, that hacking was limited to one “rogue reporter”, after royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire admitted accessing voicemails.
Cross-examined by prosecutor Andrew Edis QC, Brooks was also questioned about her involvement in offering Goodman a job when he got out of prison and in paying off celebrity PR Max Clifford.
The Old Bailey heard that Goodman and Mulcaire pleaded guilty to hacking in 2006 and were sent to jail in 2007.
During the investigation into the pair, Brooks had been briefed by police as a potential hacking victim of Mulcaire.
She had been told that Mulcaire had accessed voicemails of between 100 to 110 people, but police only needed a sample of five for a maximum sentence, the court heard.
Mr Edis repeatedly asked Brooks whether that meant she knew in 2007 that Goodman was not the only member of staff involved in hacking at the News of the World.
He said: “In fact you knew or believed that the first inquiry proved to be rather superficial and the extent of the hacking that became public in the first inquiry was rather superficial.”
Brooks replied: “I did not believe that at the time.”
Mr Edis asserted the “rogue reporter” line “was not true” but Brooks replied: “It was believed to be true at the time.”
Mr Edis said it was not believed by Brooks because of the information she had from the investigation about the 100-plus Mulcaire hacking victims.
He went on: “You believed News International’s behaviour between 2007-9 was honourable, did you?” She replied: “At the time I did. I had no reason to believe otherwise.”
The court heard that Brooks offered Goodman a job on a Diana “bookzine” project when he got out of jail in a bid to prevent him implicating other News of the World colleagues in hacking at a public job tribunal.
Asked if the offer was to “shut him up”, she said it was “to stop him making unfounded allegations”. Goodman eventually came to a settlement with News International.
Brooks later justified a £1 million deal to halt Clifford’s civil hacking claim against the News of the World, saying he supplied good stories.
As News International chief executive, she brokered the three-year verbal settlement which included costs during a meeting with Clifford, she said. Although Brooks accepted the objective was to stop Mulcaire naming people in civil litigation, she insisted: “Max Clifford was a really good source of stories.”
She also said the deal was to stop public “exposure” and to “protect the company” because no-one knew what Mulcaire might say.
Mr Edis responded: “You did know what he would say, didn’t you?” Brooks replied: “No.”
“Because you were editor at the time he was offered his contract in 2001,” Mr Edis persisted. “You knew about the contract.”
Brooks denied it, saying her “assumption” was that he engaged in legitimate private detective work for the newspaper.
Brooks was also accused of covering up phone hacking at the News of the World by deleting more than four million “embarrassing” e-mails.
She denied the allegations, claiming all she knew was that there had been a problem with the computer system at News International, the paper’s parent company.
Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire, denies conspiring to hack phones, conspiring to commit misconduct in public office and conspiring to pervert the course of justice.
All seven defendants in the case deny the charges against them. The trial continues.