Rebekah Brooks never asked anybody what the News of the World’s specialist phone hacker, Glenn Mulcaire, had been doing under her editorship at the paper, the Old Bailey heard on Wednesday.
Under cross-examination by Andrew Edis QC, for the prosecution, Brooks agreed that she had become chief executive of News International in September 2009, two months after the Guardian claimed the company had paid £1m to the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, Gordon Taylor, to suppress evidence of hacking at the News of the World.
She said she had run no investigation because it had already been done. “There wasn’t a need for me to do an investigation.”
Brooks then agreed that in February 2010, she had authorised a payment of about £1m to stop the celebrity PR agent Max Clifford suing over the hacking of his voicemail. The court has heard that the case was threatening to compel Mulcaire to identify journalists who had commissioned him. “I accept the motive: the objective was to stop Mulcaire naming names in the case,” she said.
During further cross-examination from Edis, Brooks said she understood that Mulcaire had worked for the paper under her editorship, adding that she assumed he was engaged in legitimate work.
Edis asked her: “Did you ask anybody what he had been doing during your editorship?”
“Not specifically, no,” she replied. Edis suggested to her that she must have realised there was a risk he had been hacking phones during that time.
“I know it sounds ridiculous. I didn’t have any concern for my editorship. I didn’t think that it had happened. I didn’t believe it had happened. The position at the News of the World was that nobody had known that Mulcaire was hacking phones.”
“How did you know?” Edis asked her. “You didn’t ask anybody.”
Brooks replied that she had learned this from public statements and from conversations with Andy Coulson.
Earlier, Edis challenged Brooks repeatedly after she denied being aware that News International had been covering up the scale of the hacking.
She agreed that in September 2006, the month after the original arrest of Mulcaire and the paper’s royal editor, Clive Goodman, she had learned from a Scotland Yard detective that police were aware of more than 100 victims of Mulcaire’s hacking, that there was no evidence of anybody other than the News of the World paying Mulcaire, and that his telephone records showed a pattern of his calling the News of the World before and after accessing a target’s voicemail.
The court has heard that Mulcaire and Goodman were jailed in January 2007 for a total of only eight victims.
Edis said: “You knew, didn’t you, that the whole truth did not come out during the first trial?”
She replied: “I don’t think I saw it like that.”
She agreed that, as editor of the Sun in January 2007, she would have had a reporter in court for the sentencing of Mulcaire and Goodman and that she must have known that the judge said that Mulcaire had been working for others at the News of the World, not just for Goodman.
Edis asked whether she thought News International statements about the case had been honourable. “I had no reason to believe otherwise,” she said.
“You carried on with the cover-up when you became chief executive.”
“No,” she said.
Edis then asked her to explain why Coulson had emailed her on the day that Mulcaire and Goodman had pleaded guilty to say: “It’s all going so well today.”
She said: “I think it’s an odd way to describe the royal editor pleading guilty.”
Edis suggested that the comment might have been made “if you thought there had been an agreement that the case would be dismissed without anyone else being dragged into it.”
“Absolutely not,” she replied.
Brooks and Coulson deny conspiring to intercept communications.
The trial continues.