Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and three others lose bid to have hacking charges thrown out

The Court of Appeal has rejected an application from five former News of the World journalists, including ex-editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, to have phone-hacking charges against them dismissed.

A judgment was today published by the court on the application by Brooks and Coulson, along with former news editors for the paper Ian Edmondson and James Weatherup and former managing editor Stuart Kuttner.

All five are charged with conspiracy to intercept phone-messages contrary to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).

They argued on a point of law that it could not be proven that they had breached the terms of the Act.

The law states that it is illegal to intercept a telecommunication “in the course of transmission”. The five argued that the law does not cover messages which have been listened to by the recipient and then stored.

The Appeal Court judgment states they argued that, under the terms of RIPA, “the transmission ends when the signal delivered to the handset is converted back into sound waves or the call is terminated”.

The judgment states: "The issue to be determined therefore is whether, on the proper construction of section 2(7) [of RIPA], the period of storage referred to comes to an end on first access or collection by the intended recipient or whether it continues beyond such first access for so long as the system is used to store the communication in a manner which enables the intended recipient to have subsequent or even repeated access to it."

Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, and Lord Justice Lloyd Jones said they agreed with Judge Fulford who rejected the application from the five at an earlier hearing on 28 May.

The judges said: “We agree with the conclusion of Fulford L.J. that there was nothing in the words ‘for storing it in a manner that enables the intended recipient …. otherwise to have access to it’ which suggests that this opportunity is limited by time or that it can only occur on a single occasion.  On the contrary, the words suggest to us a continuing state of affairs.”

The five are now expected to stand trial later this year.

Lord Judge allowed the names of the defendanst to be reported today, saying: "We can see no possible prejudice to the fairness of the forthcoming trial.
 
"We must not be unrealistic – there can hardly be anyone in the country who does not know to whom this case applies."
 
The three judges also refused to give the go-ahead for the five to take the issue to the Supreme Court.
 
Lord Judge said the defendants would only pay legal costs if they were convicted.

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