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  1. Media Law
May 21, 2014

‘A pantomime with a cast of villains’: Brooks defence dismisses alleged cover-up around time of her hacking arrest

By Press Association

The alleged cover-up around the time of Rebekah Brooks's arrest for phone-hacking was dismissed today as a fantastical "pantomime".

Brooks (pictured: Reuters), her husband Charlie and News International head of security Mark Hanna are accused of conspiring to pervert the course of justice in July 2011 by hiding or destroying evidence.

The alleged plot involved collecting property from the Brooks's homes in London and Oxfordshire and concealing it while police carried out searches.

The stash, including computer equipment and lesbian porn, was later handed in after it was discovered in bin bags in the underground car park of the Brooks's London flat, the jury has heard.

Brooks's lawyer, Jonathan Laidlaw QC, rejected the conspiracy allegations, telling the jury that Charlie Brooks had just been trying to keep his embarrassing porn collection out of police hands to avoid a "Jacqui Smith moment" for his wife.

He ridiculed the idea that Brooks, 45, was an "arch criminal" who had even corrupted her own mother Deborah Weir, who is in her 70s.

Laidlaw invited jurors to imagine the conversations Brooks would have had to have had in order for the prosecution to be right.

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According to prosecutors, the conversation from Brooks to her husband may have gone like this, Laidlaw said, adding: "'Darling, I hope you don't mind I have a confession to make to you. I know you thought I was a really nice person when you married me.

"I am in fact a serial criminal. It's true. I am a serial criminal. I'm up to my neck in all sorts of trouble – of course none of this has anything to do with you, Charlie.

"I understand this news might come as something of a shock to you. I get it – you are feeling pretty disillusioned at the moment but could you take some of my electronic devices and could you or Mark Hanna chuck them in the river on your way down to London?'"

Laidlaw went on: "How would anyone ever go about having a conversation like that? It's the kind of conversation that could occur between one hardened criminal and another when disposing of a corpse or concealing a stash of drugs.

"But is it the kind of conversation Rebekah Brooks could have had with her husband who had himself nothing to do with phone-hacking or paying public officials?

"I suggest it's not – but this is just the kind of version the prosecution want you to conclude may have happened. The story is less a novel, it's more of a pantomime with a cast of villains.

"Mrs Brooks is the arch criminal with her lying husband Charlie, her lying PAs, her lying head of security Mr Hanna – with such an outstanding military service before he had the misfortune to meet Rebekah Brooks – and her lying mother too."

Laidlaw added: "In respect of Mr Brooks's mother, the prosecution would have you believe Mrs Brooks sat her down and said something along the lines of 'mum, you may think I'm lovely but I'm a criminal. I need you to come to court and lie your head off to get me out of trouble. I need you to lie on oath. Could you throw in a little lie about cooking bacon with Mark Hanna, I really think that will go down a treat with the jury. Have you got that mum? Could you do that for me?'"

He told the jury: "It's beyond ridiculous. The prosecution are trying to make you believe this fantastical tale of all Mrs Brooks did and everyone she corrupted."

Jurors would also have to conclude that Brooks was a "complete fool" if they were to find her guilty of conspiring to pervert the justice with her personal assistant Cheryl Carter, he went on.

That charge relates to an alleged cover up of potential evidence in archived boxes removed from the NI archive by Carter.

All the defendants deny the charges against them.

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