Jury panel warned phone-hacking trial may take six months

The trial of Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson on phone-hacking and corruption charges could last six months, the trial judge warned today.

Mr Justice Saunders told potential jurors during this afternoon’s jury selection process that the trial could last until Easter.

A total of 80 people packed into court number 12 at the Old Bailey where they were soon whittled down to 33.

Those members were asked to fill in a questionnaire overnight and confirm whether they could commit to such a long trial.

Former News International chief executive Brooks and ex-government spin doctor Coulson, both 45, appeared at the Old Bailey for the first day of proceedings

Mr Justice Saunders told the jury panel: "The trial which we are about to start will take a considerable length of time. It is estimated that the case may last until Easter. I hope that with the assistance of counsel the case will finish more quickly, but people who sit on it should be prepared for the case to go on that long."

The judge added: "To sit on a jury for this length of time, five or six months, is a significant disruption in people's lives and we do appreciate that. We do need the assistance of members of the public like you to try this case. It is, as you will hear, an important case and we have to find a jury able to try it."

He told them that jury service "is a public duty and is not voluntary", and added: "It's critical to the jury system … that a jury takes the case free from any preconceptions. From now on you do not discuss the case with anyone."

Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire, and Coulson, 45, from Preston in Kent, are both accused of conspiracy to intercept communications in the course of their transmission.

They are accused of conspiring with former News of the World (NotW) head of news Ian Edmondson, 44, from Raynes Park, south-west London, the tabloid's ex-managing editor Stuart Kuttner, 73, from Woodford Green, Essex, and others to illegally access voicemails between 3 October 2000 and 9 August 2006.

Ex-NotW and Sun editor Brooks is also charged with 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.

It is alleged that they conspired to remove seven boxes of material from the News International archive.

The second count alleges that Brooks, her husband Charles Brooks and former head of security at News International Mark Hanna conspired together and with others between 15 July and 19 July 2011 to pervert the course of justice.

It is claimed that they tried to conceal documents, computers and other electronic equipment from police officers who were investigating allegations of phone hacking and corruption of public officials in relation to the News of the World and The Sun newspapers.

Former Number 10 spin doctor and ex-NotW editor Coulson is also facing two allegations that he conspired with the tabloid's former royal editor Clive Goodman, 56, from Addlestone in Surrey, and persons unknown to commit misconduct in public office – one between 31 August 2002 and 31 January 2003; and the other between 31 January and 3 June 2005.

 

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