Day 19 (Part 2): Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers “placed great emphasis” on the code of practice for journalists, Rebekah Brooks told the Press Complaints Commission two years before she was arrested for suspected phone hacking and corruption.
Mrs Brooks (then Rebekah Wade) gave the assurance in a letter to the PCC’s then chairwoman Baroness Buscombe in September 2009.
The letter was read out to the phone hacking trial at the Old Bailey today.
Lady Buscombe had written to the chief executive designate of News International on 23 July 2009, two weeks after the Guardian had revealed that the News of the World had made a secret hacking payout to footballers’ union boss Gordon Taylor.
As a result, the Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee had begun a fresh investigation into the issue, Lady Buscombe told Mrs Brooks, appealing for her help in countering “strong feelings in Westminster”. The Conservative peer asked the Sun editor for evidence that the PCC was taken seriously and that there was no need to reform the industry’s system of voluntary regulation.
Mrs Brooks did so in her reply on 14 September 2009, telling Lady Buscombe: “News International’s titles have always placed great emphasis on adherence to the PCC code of practice.” She went on:
“Any journalist who breaks the law during their employment is in breach of their contract of employment and as such liable to summary dismissal.”
On cash payments, Mrs Brooks – who is on trial accused of authorising illegal payments of £40,000 to public officials between 2004 and 2012 – wrote: “Since the Goodman case [in 2006], strict protocols have been put in place on cash payments.”
The court was shown internal News International emails during July 2011 when the phone hacking scandal was ignited by the disclosure that the News of the World had hacked Milly Dowler’s phone.
On 4 July 2011, the Conservative MP Philip Dunne had forwarded a Parliamentary news agency report stating that the Labour MP Tom Watson had just raised a Commons point of order about the hacking, to Mrs Brooks’s husband Charlie. Mr Brooks forwarded the report to News International’s general manager, Will Lewis, asking: “Is the below a problem?”
Mr Lewis responded: “Another attempted hit on Rebekah by Watson,” but added that the comments made by Milly’s parents looked “bad.”
Mrs Brooks and the seven other defendants deny all charges. The case continues on Monday.