News Column

Rebekah Brooks Denies She Knew About Phone Hacks

February 21, 2014

Lisa O'Carroll, Josh Halliday,

Rebekah Brooks was not aware of the annual contract the News of the World had with Glenn Mulcaire, the self-confessed phone hacker employed by the paper during her editorship, the Old Bailey has heard.

In the witness box at the phone-hacking trial for the second day on Friday, Brooks said she did not know of the 92,000-a-year contract he had with the paper in 2001. Nor was she aware of weekly payments of about 1,700 made in 2002. She said these would not been flagged up to her because they came within the newsdesk's "weekly spending limits".

She said the contract with Mulcaire arranged by the paper's former head of special investigations, Greg Miskiw, was entered into without her knowledge.

Brooks added that anything over 50,000 should have been brought to the attention herself, the paper's managing editor or its financial officer.

Her counsel, Jonathan Laidlaw QC, asked: "Was the arrangement that Miskiw [set up] brought to your attention?" She responded: "No, it wasn't."

She said she was aware of larger payments, however, including 15,000 to Max Clifford or a contract with the now-deceased film director and restaurant critic Michael Winner. "Mr Winner's column, I negotiated that myself."

The court heard that the Sunday tabloid was turning in a profit of about 30m a year under Brooks.

"The News of the World was very profitable during my editorship," Brooks told the court. "Every year I was there, we had a healthy profit," she added.

In 2000, the year she took over as editor, Brooks had editorial costs of 24.3m. With a revenue forecast of 161m in 2000, print costs set at 85m and promotions and marketing at 11.5m, profits were expected to come in at 30.3m, the court heard. "It was making a lot of money in those days," Brooks told the court.

The following year she persuaded News of the World proprietor Rupert Murdoch to increase her budget to 27m. "It went up because of Sarah's Law," said Brooks.

The News of the World's Sarah's Law campaign, which called for parents to be told if sex offenders lived nearby, cost the paper "a couple of million", the court heard.

Brooks said the amount spent on the campaign meant that she overspent her budget.

"Fortunately they [News Corporation bosses] were very behind the campaign so I didn't get into too much trouble," she said. "I was told that I had I was given an increase, I think from the Sunday Times and I was told absolutely to stick to that figure."

Brooks is facing four charges related to a 12-year period at News International. The charges are linked to allegations of phone hacking at the News of the World, illegal payments to public officials at the Sun, which she also edited, and an alleged attempt to conceal material from police in 2011 when the police's phone-hacking investigation was at its height.

She denies all charges.

The trial continues.


Original headline: Rebekah Brooks 'not aware of hacker's contract while she was NoW editor'

Source: (c) 2014 Guardian Newspapers Limited.

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