Hacking trial judge rules Prince Charles' former aide does not have to answer affair question - Press Gazette

Hacking trial judge rules Prince Charles' former aide does not have to answer affair question

Prince Charles’ former private secretary did not have to answer whether he was having an affair in January 2003, a court heard today.

Giving evidence at the afternoon session of the phone-hacking trial, Sir Michael Peat argued the relevance of the question before Mr Justice Saunders.

The Old Bailey had previously heard that Peat had been targeted by the News of the World over false rumours that he had been involved in an affair.

The jury was shown a handwritten note from January 2003 found at the home of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who has pleaded guilty to conspiring to hack phones, which contained contact details for Peat.

Another note was also found at the address with Peat's name and "affair?" written above, the court heard.

Mark Bryant-Heron, counsel for the prosecution, asked Peat whether he was "engaged in an affair" in January 2003.

"Could you just explain the relevance of this question?" he replied.

The jury, which was briefly sent out of the courtroom, was told by the judge Peat had argued the question was not relevant and did not have be answered.

Prosecutors claim that Goodman paid for two copies of a Royal telephone directory – known as a green book – from palace police officers, with the funds allegedly authorised by Coulson.

A total of 15 copies of the book were found in Goodman's home when it was searched in 2006, and of those it is claimed that another two belonged to police but were not necessarily sold by officers, the court has previously heard.

Under cross examination by David Spens QC, counsel for Goodman, Peat said he understood there was a "long-standing practice" among staff or police in the royal household to supply copies of the green book to the press.

"We were of the view that there was a substantial risk that it would get in the hands of those it was not intended," he told the court.

Peat, who was Charles' private secretary from 2002 to 2011, said he rejected the suggestion put to him by Spens that "much of the public" were hostile to the Prince at the time he took on the role.

"Certainly sections of the media absolutely hammered him for years as a way to sell newspapers," he said.

Asked if there was an attempt to improve the image of the Prince with the media and public, Peat replied: "Absolutely not.

"What attempt was made was to improve the service that he and his family got from his press office, to make sure the press office was more effective in meeting the media's requirements and dealing with the media in a more straightforward way."

Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire; ex News of the World editor Andy Coulson, also 45, from Charing in Kent; and the tabloid's ex-managing editor Stuart Kuttner, 73, from Woodford Green, Essex, are all on trial accused of conspiring with others to hack phones between 3 October 2000 and 9 August 2006.

Former NoW and Sun editor Brooks is also accused of two counts of conspiring with others to commit misconduct in public office – one between 1 January 2004 and 31 January 2012 and the other between 9 February 2006 and 16 October 2008 – linked to alleged inappropriate payments to public officials.

She faces another two allegations of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice – one with her former personal assistant Cheryl Carter, 49, from Chelmsford in Essex, between 6 July and 9 July 2011; and a second with her husband, Charles Brooks, and former head of security at News International, Mark Hanna, and others between 15 July and 19 July 2011.

Coulson is also facing two allegations that he conspired with former NoW royal editor Clive Goodman, 56, from Addlestone in Surrey, and other unknown people to commit misconduct in public office – between 31 August 2002 and 31 January 2003, and between 31 January and 3 June 2005.

All of the accused deny all of the charges.

The trial continues.



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