REBEKAH Brooks and Andy Coulson were among five defendants to lose a last-ditch attempt to block their prosecution over alleged phone hacking yesterday.
The former News of the World editors, alongside the newspaper’s former senior reporter James Weatherup, former managing editor Stuart Kuttner, and ex-news editor Ian Edmondson, tried to get their case dismissed at the Court of Appeal.
But Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge rejected their arguments. All five are due to stand trial in September.
The defendants have denied conspiracy to intercept mobile phone voicemails between 3 October 2000 and 9 August 2006.
They had tried to get the case dismissed at the Court of Appeal, arguing that accessing voicemails after they had been listened to by the recipient was not covered by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, under which they are charged.
But three appeal court judges, led by Lord Judge, ruled: “Contrary to the submission on behalf of the appellants, the resulting situation is not lacking in legal certainty.” Lord Judge allowed the names of the defendants to be reported, saying: “We can see no possible prejudice to the fairness of the forthcoming trial.
“We must not be unrealistic – there can hardly be anyone in the country who does not know to whom this case applies.” The three judges also refused to give the go-ahead for the five to take the issue to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land.
But Lord Judge added that the defendants would only pay legal costs if they were convicted.
The hacking scandal prompted Rupert Murdoch to shut down the Sunday tabloid in July 2011 and led to a huge police investigation and the Leveson inquiry into press standards.
Brooks and Coulson deny charges of involvement in the bribery of public officials for stories. Brooks also denies perverting the course of justice.
After editing the News of the World, Brooks took charge of the Sun, then was chief executive officer of News International from 2009 to 2011, until the hacking scandal forced her out. While in the role, she enjoyed friendships with senior politicians including David Cameron.
The pair exchanged texts while Brooks was still at News International. In one message, the Prime Minister thanked Brooks for letting him ride one of her horses, joking it was “fast, unpredictable and hard to control, but fun”.
After leaving the News of the World, Coulson went on to work as Mr Cameron’s chief of communications, but was forced out of the job as pressure grew from the hacking inquiry.
Coulson has also appeared in a Scottish court charged with perjury. He was detained for questioning at Govan police station in May last year. Officers later charged him and a report went to the procurator fiscal.