When the phone-hacking trial ended this week, freelance photographer Lee Thomas was present at London’s Old Bailey, as he had been on most days during the eight-month proceedings. Thomas, 45, would typically arrive at 8.30am to see the participants going in. He says: “Even on a quiet day, I would often just mill about. I don’t like press cages, I prefer to be mobile and you can find these spaces outside and work out what you can get away with with the police.”
A picture taken in one such space shows Cheryl Carter, one of the less high-profile defendants, walking unnoticed past a crowd, something that happened regularly at first, says Thomas. His photographs are striking for the connection they often make with the subject – especially Rebekah Brooks, former chief executive of News International. “I never called her name. She was looking for me.” One of his favourites shows Brooks with husband Charlie (see slideshow below). He looks down, she glances over with a “demure” smile.
By contrast, says Thomas, former News of the World editor and No 10 communications chief Andy Coulson “tended to avert his eyes but I found if you stared at the back of his head as he was queueing to get in, he would look round.”
This was Thomas’s first experience of a long trial but he would do it again. “Photographers moan about repetition but there are really interesting personalities.”