An emotional Rebekah Brooks has given her first statement since she was acquitted of all phone-hacking charges, declaring she was “vindicated” by the unanimous verdicts of the jury.
With her husband, Charlie, by her side, and her voice breaking, Brooks tried to strike a note of contrition as she said she hoped she had learned some “valuable lessons” from the long trial.
OK: vox populi, vox Dei, etc.
The not guilty verdict will leave many scratching their heads. How could a woman of such intelligence and astuteness rise to the top in a male-dominated cutthroat industry and yet be so naïve or incurious not to want to discover how her underlings were sourcing their juiciest stories? Did she never ask, as any good editor would ask, where did this come from? Brooks repeatedly told the court she knew little about phone hacking, claiming she was not aware of the fact that a private investigator was being paid more than many of her senior reporters to illegally access cell phone voice mails. To be so ignorant of the criminal ruse that put her newspaper so consistently ahead of its rivals would seem to be beyond belief.
That’s not-too-far from where we find the huffing Heffer this morning:
Cameron knew perfectly well that during the time when Coulson edited the News of the World, the paper had become a criminal enterprise, hacking people’s phones, and that he had been forced to resign after one of his senior staff was jailed.
The day after Coulson’s astonishing appointment as Tory press spokesman in 2007, I wrote about Coulson’s claim that he had been unaware his staff had been paying more than £100,000 a year to a man to hack phones. I suggested this proved that either he was spectacularly incompetent, or spectacularly dishonest.
Though, perhaps, that needs a grain-or-two of salt: wasn’t Heffer’s name in the frame for Coulson’s job with Cameron? Doesn’t Heffer (self-proclaimed
purloiner inventor of “Essex Man”) perchance resent Coulson as the onlie-true begetter of all things Essex and prole?
Let us press Heffer’s argument a stage further: the News of the Screws didn’t invent phone-hacking, and the worst examples of its use happened before Coulson was editorially enstooled in Brooks’s place. Yet Brooks maintained in Court she had no knowledge of the operations, or of it practioners. So, by Heffer’s definition, she too must be spectacularly incompetent, or spectacularly dishonest.
Paul Hoggart puts it as succinctly as anyone:
Brooks became a victim of her own tabloid methods. Although technically exonerated, she remains a flawed, toxic figure who at the very least allowed the company she was managing to suffer a profound public relations disaster which forced it to split in half and from which its press division may never recover.
Now to Tom Watson on LabourList, who lists Nine Remarkable Revelations From the Hacking Trial. These include much unfinished business, not least:
While being edited by Brooks, The Sun paid a defence official for exclusive stories about the deaths of soldiers in Afghanistan, military scandals and titillating examples of indiscipline in the ranks. In all the Sun paid £100,000 paid to Bettina Jordan Barber, a mid-ranking official at Ministry of Defence who liaised with the MoD’s press bureau, between 2004 and 2012. The resulting headlines included: “Mucky major’s a sex swinger,” “Major feels privates’ privates” and “The Lust Post.”.
Hmmm … bribery, suborning, corruption — take your pick.
The Hacking Trial may have cost the public purse some £35 million, in Roy Greenslade’s accounting:
The real cost of the trial to the taxpayer is not £110m
Let’s deal with the money first. The total includes the massive defence fund provided by Rupert Murdoch. It is estimated that the cost to taxpayers will be £35m.
Anyway, the police and the prosecuting authorities were taking on a powerful international company that had, for years, deliberately denied the existence of hacking and later defied attempts by the police to investigate it.
The investigation proved to be complex, involving many, many hours of painstaking research into computer files. It was bound to cost money. Can anyone imagine how the rest of the press would have howled if the police had simply thrown up their hands and said it was too expensive to carry on?
“Draining the swamp” is, in another context, the phrase of the moment. I happen to think £35 million (perhaps just one-tenth of what Murdoch’s Sky TV annual ad costs are) is good value for essential public hygiene and sanitation.