Phone-Hacking Trial Kicks Off London

Former News Corp execs face multiple charges

LONDON — Two of Rupert Murdoch’s former lieutenants, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, arrived in court in London Monday to face charges relating to the phone-hacking scandal.

Brooks was editor of two of Murdoch’s U.K. tabloids, The Sun and The News of the World, and later was chief exec of News International, which controlled Murdoch’s U.K. newspaper empire. Coulson was editor of The News of the World, and later became the U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s director of communications.

Brooks is charged with conspiracy to intercept voicemails, conspiracy to cause misconduct in public office — which relates to alleged payments made to public officials — and the allegation that she tried to cover up these offenses.

Coulson faces charges relating to phone hacking and to allegations connected to corrupt payments.

There are six other defendants at the trial at the Old Bailey, which is England’s best-known court-house. These include Stuart Kuttner, The News of the World’s former managing editor, Ian Edmondson, the paper’s former head of news, and Clive Goodman, the tabloid’s former royal editor.

Brooks’ former assistant, Cheryl Carter, News International’s former security chief, Mark Hanna, and Brooks’ husband, Charlie Brooks, are also on trial.

They deny all charges.

Monday was taken up with jury selection, and the prosecution is likely to begin outlining its case Tuesday. The trial is expected to last several months.

Brooks was the first to arrive in court, where she sat in the glass-paneled dock alongside her husband, with the other defendants to her right.

The judge, Justice John Saunders, said as jury selection began: “This trial concerns allegations of criminal conduct at The News of the World and The Sun newspapers which preceded the closure of The News of the World. It’s an important case.

“The trial we are about to start will take a considerable length of time. It’s estimated the case may last until Easter.”

Another 60 journalists may face trial for offenses relating to phone hacking and bribery.

The Old Bailey dates back to the 17th century — defendants have included Oscar Wilde and Quaker William Penn — and little has changed since. Those in court are banned from texting, tweeting or using social media during the trial, and black-caped ushers will be keeping a beady eye on the press to make sure they follow the rules.

Although media interest is intense, only 17 reporters are allowed in court, with 53 others housed in an annex watching the proceedings on monitors. Tickets for these places were snapped up in August.

The revelations that may be made during this trial and those to follow could have a devastating effect on Murdoch’s empire, Cameron’s government and press freedom in the U.K., with many politicians eager to rein in the press.

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