Brooks asked for office "sweep" before hacking inquiry reopened

LONDON Mon Jan 13, 2014 7:08pm IST

Former editor of the News of the World, and News International executive Rebekah Brooks, and her husband Charlie Brooks leave the Old Bailey in central London, December 19, 2013. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/Files

Former editor of the News of the World, and News International executive Rebekah Brooks, and her husband Charlie Brooks leave the Old Bailey in central London, December 19, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor/Files



LONDON (Reuters) - Rebekah Brooks, the former head of Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper arm, asked for her office to be swept for listening devices the day before police reopened their investigation into phone-hacking, a London court heard on Monday.

The Old Bailey was also told that Murdoch's News International set up three security operations, nicknamed Blackhawk, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk, to protect executives when they were sent threatening letters at the height of public anger in 2011 over phone-hacking allegations.

"Can we have my phones, and office swept ... thanks. Discreetly," Brooks wrote in an email to Will Lewis, a senior News International executive, and Mark Hanna who ran the company's security operation.

The email was sent on January 25 2011, the day before London's Metropolitan Police announced a new investigation into hacking by journalists at Murdoch's News of the World tabloid.

Brooks, a former editor of the News of the World and News International chief executive from 2009, denies charges of conspiring to hack phones, authorising illegal payments to public officials and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by hiding material from police.

Lawyer William Clegg, representing Hanna who is accused of helping Brooks to conceal items from detectives, told the court office sweeps were "entirely normal and routine", and were regularly carried out at newspaper buildings to ensure rivals could not find out about exclusive stories.

He also said there had been daily sweeps carried out in 2011 because Murdoch's News Corp (NWSA.O) was at the time in the process of trying to buy full control of British pay TV operator BSkyB (BSY.L), a plan which was ditched in the wake of the phone-hacking furore.

Cross-examining Jane Viner, the operations manager for News International, now known as News UK, Clegg said the scandal had led to members of the public sending threatening and abusive letters to Brooks and other company executives, so much so that mail was being monitored by the security team.

"I do remember Mark (Hanna) talking to myself and others about it," Viner said, agreeing that the perceived security risk had never been higher.

Clegg said police later found a large volume of threatening letters at Hanna's home.

As a result, News International brought in an external firm, International Corporate Protection, to bolster security. They organised three operations to provide bodyguards for Brooks, Lewis and public relations executive Simon Greenberg, the jury were told.

This led to a 24-hour physical presence outside Brooks's home in Oxfordshire and her flat in London.

Earlier the court was told that on July 14, 2011, the day before she resigned from News International, Brooks had been making plans to move her office from the firm's London headquarters to her Oxfordshire home.

Brooks, Hanna and five others deny all charges and the trial continues.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared


Reuters Showcase

Apple Update

Apple Update

Bug delays Apple's HealthKit availability on iOS 8.  Full Article | Related Story 

Infosys -Huawei Deal

Infosys-Huawei Deal

Infosys partners with China's Huawei for cloud-based projects  Full Article 

New iPads

New iPads

Apple to unveil new iPads, operating system on Oct. 21 - report.  Full Article 

Alibaba IPO

Alibaba IPO

Alibaba set to price IPO shares amid investor frenzy  Full Article | Related Story 

Data Security

Data Security

Apple hiring manager to handle China government data requests  Full Article | Related Story 

Banking On PlayStation

Banking On PlayStation

Sony PlayStation chief: hopes games unit can raise profit outlook this year  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage