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Rebekah Brooks ‘was very demanding’ and insisted on high standards, court told

By Press Association

Rebekah Brooks was a demanding editor who wanted to "get stories into the newspaper", a lawyer has told her phone-hacking trial.

But Justin Walford, who worked as an in-house lawyer at the company that published The Sun and the News of the World (NoW), said he was never asked to give advice about phone hacking, and never felt under any financial pressure while checking stories for legal pitfalls.

Walford, deputy legal manager at News Group Newspapers, told the Old Bailey he was mainly responsible for legal checks on The Sun, but would stand in for legal manager Tom Crone in checking its now-defunct weekly sister title the News of the World.

He told the court that lawyers would "libel read" both The Sun and the NoW before they were published, then make suggestions for possible changes.

Describing Brooks, Walford told jurors: "I think she was a very demanding editor. She wanted high standards, she was very demanding in my dealings with her."

He said she would often argue with legal queries rather than accepting them without discussion.

"She was passionate about the paper and what she wanted to get into the newspaper and we had many an argument about material going into the paper," he said.

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"She is a strong personality, she has strong views and she expected hard work and everyone pulling in the same direction to get stories into the newspaper.

"It was not the case where a lawyer could just make a few legal marks and it would be quickly forgotten. She would want an explanation why those marks had been made."

Asked to describe Brooks's fellow defendant Andy Coulson, Walford said: "I think Andy Coulson was an editor who wanted to get stories into the paper.

"I didn't libel read the paper (the NoW) that many times when he was editor but he listened to advice."

He said Coulson would also argue over material to go in the paper, but would "take seriously" the legal advice he was given.

Walford told the court today: "Clearly editors want to get stories into the newspapers and, quite rightly, they will push the lawyer to agree the copy they want to put in."

But he said he never felt any financial pressure to allow material in.

"I try to give advice and if editors don't like it, it's up to them, it's their decision to publish, not the lawyer's.

"I have never felt under financial pressure or anything like that."

He said he could not remember being asked to give any advice on phone-hacking, and had no cause to suspect that any story had been sourced in that way.

And he told the court he could not remember private investigator Glenn Mulcaire's name being mentioned until he was arrested alongside NoW royal editor Clive Goodman in 2006.

Walford said lawyers at the tabloid focused on the "end product" they were checking, not necessarily how the story was sourced.

"I don't seek to find out sources from journalists," he said, saying journalists were "naturally protective of their sources".

"The emphasis of the lawyers, particularly at that time, the emphasis was very much on the end product," he said.

Asked to describe The Sun – which he said had a "tremendous rivalry" with the NoW – Walford said: "I think it would see itself as a national institution, as a paper that is the first newspaper that many people in the country would turn to first and foremost.

"I think it would feel that it's providing entertaining journalism, but also that it was seeking to provide proper news to its readers and to expose what it thought was wrong on occasion, to pursue campaigns for changes that it thought were desirable.

"So it would see itself as a newspaper that really had something to say to, at any rate, a section of the people of Britain."

Describing the professionalism of journalists at the "red top" tabloid, he said: "You don't get to work on the Sun as a journalist unless you are very good.

"It's a newspaper that has very high standards in that sense."

He admitted it might be impossible for an editor to know the source of every single story, because of the sheer volume of stories produced – many of which did not even get into the paper.

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; former NoW head of news Ian Edmondson, 44, from Raynes Park, south west London; 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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