Brooks defence urges jury to consider public interest in armed forces stories

The Ministry of Defence had a policy of "keeping a lid on bad news" at the time The Sun was leaked information about troops, jurors have been told.

Former editor Rebekah Brooks (pictured: Reuters) is accused of sanctioning payments to a public official for information about Army personnel. But her lawyer invited the jury to consider the public interest in stories about the armed forces.

Jonathan Laidlaw QC said: "You may like to ask yourself whether the MoD's approach to try to keep a lid on bad news about the armed forces to protect information that might embarrass the government, to publicise only the positive things … is a state of affairs that serves the public good.

"Is that situation in the public interest and, if not, what are individuals supposed to do about it?"

He highlighted stories about troop welfare and a soldier being killed in a friendly fire incident.

Laidlaw said: "A corporal throwing a live hand grenade into a room full of recruits; a captain getting drunk and assaulting a civilian bus driver … a female soldier being pregnant giving birth in Army barracks without anyone knowing about it – these are just some of the stories you may think are important – important enough that the public ought to know. Important enough for the BBC and other broadcasters to pick the stories up."

Laidlaw went on to suggest the "ace military source" Brooks was asked to sign off payments to did not necessarily indicate it was a public official.

There were 11 such email requests from a journalist, who cannot be named, in 32 months between 2006 and 2009, Laidlaw said.

He added: "These 11 emails do not prove that Mrs Brooks knew that (the journalist's) source was a public official, not when you view them in the right context of her trust in (the journalist). She would not have been reading these emails alive to the possibility that he might have been paying a public official."

Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire, denies all the charges against her, including conspiring to hack phones at the News of the World.

Earlier, Laidlaw said the ex-wife of golfer Colin Montgomerie told a "bare-faced lie" about Brooks having confessed to hacking and should never have been called to give evidence in the trial.

Eimear Cook's account of a lunch on 20 September 2005 was a "fabrication", Laidlaw told the jury in his closing speech.

Laidlaw said: "Why call this witness to give evidence when a cursory examination of the facts establish that she was lying about Mrs Brooks?

"It's not just a lie. It's a lie cynically told to set the ground for what is to come in this quite false account. It was by that route she was going to go on to suggest that laughing, chatty Mrs Brooks confessed to phone-hacking to a complete stranger.

"It should not have happened. The prosecution should have done background work and that work would have demonstrated that Mrs Cook was not a truthful witness. And if she lied to you about Mrs Brooks regaling her arrest, something that had not yet happened, you certainly, we suggest, cannot believe a word she said about Mrs Brooks phone-hacking."

Laidlaw said the evidence "cried out" for Brooks to be acquitted of conspiring to hack phones.

All seven defendants in the trial deny the charges against them.

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