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  1. Media Law
June 3, 2014

Cheryl Carter defence: ‘Has there ever been a more unlikely candidate standing in the dock of the Old Bailey?’

By Press Association

Rebekah Brooks's "big hearted" former personal assistant was the most unlikely character to appear in the dock at the Old Bailey, jurors in the hacking trial heard.

Cheryl Carter (pictured, Reuters) is accused of conspiring with her old boss to pervert the course of justice by removing seven boxes of potential evidence from the News International archive in July 2011.

She told police she went through the contents at home and binned her own notepads used for her Sun beauty column while returning anything belonging to the ex-NI chief executive.

In his closing speech, her lawyer Trevor Burke QC asked: "Has there ever been a more unlikely candidate standing in the dock of the Old Bailey?"

He said his client had led a "blameless life" and was of "good character".

"She is very human with a very big heart which she wears on her sleeve."

He said she would never have asked her son Nick to collect the boxes for her if she had thought there was anything amiss.

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Burke also highlighted her conduct in giving evidence. "In the witness box she nearly fell off her chair because her feet did not reach the floor. Many of you will think what you saw was what you got – a bright breezy woman.

"She is a bit scatty perhaps but many would find that to be an endearing quality."

He reminded jurors of her anecdotes about mistaking furniture retailer MFI with spy agency MI5 and getting in a muddle over booking the wrong Miliband brother for a lunch with her boss.

But the prosecution failed to see the funny side and interpreted them instead as being "concocted, rehearsed and fabricated between Mrs Carter and Mrs Brooks", the lawyer said.

He went on: "The prosecution approach is simplicity itself. It works in principle just like this: Cheryl Carter is guilty. Whatever Cheryl Carter says is therefore a lie. Any witness called in support of her is lying as well."

Carter, 50, of Chelmsford, Essex, and her six co-defendants deny the charges against them.

The significance of the seven archived boxes at the centre of the case was questioned by Burke.

He said there were in fact 36 boxes from Brooks's office in the archive. In all, 31 of them were from the period covered by the phone-hacking charge.

The lawyer said if there was an active conspiracy, Brooks would have told her PA to check how many boxes there were and remove them all.

"We now know when the seven boxes were removed that left 29 boxes there. As far as we are aware, these 29 boxes have still not been examined.

"Only the seven that went missing are of any consequence to the Crown," he said.

He said it was a matter for the jury to decide the strength of the case and consider if the missing boxes' contents would have been "ram packed" with evidence.

Concluding his case, Burke addressed the jury. On Carter and Brooks, he asked: "Would such a friendship and mutual respect they have for each other lead to a criminal conspiracy as suggested?"

He added: "In the last seven months you the jury have been locked together. Jury service is a great leveller.

"Whatever your respective sex, age, class, wealth, education and occupation you all get one vote and all votes are equal."

The trial was adjourned until this morning.

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