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Murdoch ex-editor Brooks blamed others for illegal activity, court hears

Source: Reuters - Wed, 12 Mar 2014 15:39 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Prosecution accuses Brooks of blaming those around her

* She denies charges, knowledge of illegal behaviour

* Texts show former PM Blair offered support

By Kate Holton

LONDON, March 12 (Reuters) - Rebekah Brooks, the former head of Rupert Murdoch's British newspapers, was accused in court on Wednesday of blaming all those around her when finally caught orchestrating an illegal campaign to get stories at any cost.

Appearing in the witness stand for a 13th day, Brooks engaged in a tense standoff with lead prosecutor, Andrew Edis, who accused her of ordering staff to hack into phones, make illegal payments and then cover up their behaviour as the police closed in.

"You got some very good stories; you did not much care how you got them," Edis told the former editor, who counted the last three British prime ministers as close friends and was one of the most influential media executives in Britain before her arrest in 2011.

"That's just not true I'm afraid," she replied, with her voice starting to break.

"You were running your world and not much happened in it that you didn't want to happen when you were at the top of the tree," Edis said. "You were the boss."

Brooks replied: "I was the CEO, yes."

The 45-year-old is on trial at the Old Bailey accused of conspiracy to hack phones, authorising illegal payments to public officials and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, charges she denies.

She is on trial with fellow colleagues from the now-defunct News of the World tabloid, her husband, personal assistant and security advisers.

"REALLY STUPID"

Prosecutor Edis said Brooks had blamed her staff and even her husband for trying to hide information when the police stepped up their investigation.

"Nothing to do with you," he said.

Brooks admitted her husband had sought to hide some of his belongings from the police, including pornographic magazines, actions she described as "really stupid", but said she had not known about it until he told her later.

A decision by her personal assistant Cheryl Carter to remove seven boxes from company archives also happened without her knowledge, she said. And Brooks' argument that the boxes actually contained notebooks belonging to Carter and not her was dismissed by Edis as "rubbish".

"Mrs Brooks, your evidence has been a carefully presented and prepared script and bears little relation to the truth about these offences," Edis said.

The revelation that staff on Britain's then biggest-selling newspaper had hacked into phones to generate stories sent shockwaves through the media industry, convulsed Murdoch's empire and embarrassed members of the political elite who were all shown to be close to the media organisation.

Earlier on Wednesday, a series of texts between Brooks and former Prime Minister Tony Blair was read to the jury, showing him offering to help her before her appearance at an influential media committee in parliament's House of Commons.

"I'm really sorry about it all. Call me if you need to. Tx," Blair said. "If you're still going to parliament you should call me. I have experience of these things! Tx"

"Definitely," she replied. "Feeling properly terrified. Police are behaving so badly."

Brooks was summoned to appear before parliament in July 2011, just days after her arrest. The lengthy hearing was broadcast live on television and was one of the biggest news stories of that year.

"I'm no use on police stuff but call me after that because I may be some help on Commons," Blair said.

The case is expected to end in mid-May.

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