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March 12, 2014 7:41 pm
Tony Blair sent a number of supportive messages to Rebekah Brooks offering to help her ahead of her appearance before parliament, including a message sent the day before she was arrested by police in July 2011, the Old Bailey has heard.
Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC ended his cross-examination of Ms Brooks by accusing her of delivering evidence from a “carefully presented and prepared script” as he went through the events of July 2011 at the height of the phone-hacking scandal.
The former Labour prime minister sent messages to Ms Brooks the day before her arrest by police on July 17 2011 after she had resigned as chief executive of News International.
She had been called to testify on the phone-hacking scandal before a parliamentary select committee the following week. Ms Brooks was arrested as she arrived at Lewisham police station in south London on July 17 2011.
In messages seen by the jury, on 15 July Mr Blair told her: “I’m really sorry about it all. Call me if you need to,” adding: “If you’re still going to parliament you should call me. I have experience of these things! Tx”.
Mr Edis, cross-examining, showed Ms Brooks other messages from Mr Blair. He added that, on July 16, the former prime minister was “offering to help in relation to the forthcoming appearance in parliament. Isn’t he?”
Ms Brooks replied: “Yes”.
Mr Edis told Ms Brooks she had replied to Mr Blair on that day: “Definitely. Depends on the police interview first.”
She added that she had Stephen Parkinson, her new lawyer from the Kingsley Napley law firm, coming to represent her and whom people had told her was “good”.
“He’s excellent,” Mr Blair replied in the message read out in court and seen by the jury. Ms Brooks told Mr Blair that she was: “Feeling properly terrified! Police are behaving so badly.”
To which Mr Blair replied: “Everyone panics in these situations. Assume you have quality QC advice. When’s the interview?” Ms Brooks replied with the possible interview dates.
Mr Blair then messaged: “That’s good. I’m no use on police stuff but call me after that because I may be some help on Commons,” the court heard. Ms Brooks replied to him: “Great. Will do. X”
Ms Brooks also wanted to ask Lord Mandelson, the former business secretary and Labour politician, to help her rehearse ahead of her televised appearance before the parliamentary select committee in July 2011, the trial heard.
Mr Edis told her that “mock sessions” were planned “so you could practice and you wanted to ask Lord Mandelson to see if he’ll come and help.”
Ms Brooks told the court that Lord Mandelson had “set up a PR company” giving advice, adding: “I was not experienced doing TV stuff.” In the event, the rehearsals did not take place.
Ms Brooks was cross-examined by Mr Edis about events in July 2011 when she is alleged to have conspired with others to hide material from police.
She is accused of conspiring with her personal assistant Cheryl Carter to remove seven boxes of notebooks from the News International archive. Ms Carter removed the boxes which had a note: “All notebooks belonging to Rebekah Wade née Brooks 1995-2007.”
Ms Brooks told the jury that she never used the News International archive and the books belonged to Ms Carter because: “I rarely used notebooks”.
She also told the jury that she had no idea that her husband Charlie had “hidden” material from the police behind bins at their London flat. Mr Edis put to her that she had “quite a meteoric rise in your profession” and had been editor of two national newspapers which was a “pretty stunning achievement” in a “hugely demanding job” and she “had won” in a competitive industry “because you were extremely good at it”.
Mr Edis put to her that her evidence – that she was “completely unaware” of what others at the News of the World and at the Sun were doing – was “quite untrue”.
“You were running your world and not much happened in it which you didn’t want to happen when you were the top of the tree,” he put to her.
“I was the chief executive, yes,” Ms Brooks replied. Ms Brooks denies four offences including conspiracy to intercept voicemails.
She is standing trial with six others who also deny a variety of charges against them.
The trial continues.
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