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Rupert Murdoch and the Corruption of the British Media

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Rupert Murdoch must step down as News Corporation chair – shareholders

Christian Brothers Investment Services demands action to 'dramatically revise corporate

By Dominic Rushe in New York

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 8 May 2013 18.05 EDT

A resolution has been filed by News Corp shareholders in the US, UK and Canada calling for Rupert Murdoch to step down. Photograph: ZUMA/Rex Features

Dissident shareholders are pressing once more for the media mogul Rupert Murdoch to step down as chairman of News Corporation.

Shareholders from the US, UK and Canada filed a resolution on Tuesday, calling for News Corp to appoint an independent chairman. A similar resolution attracted strong support at the media company's annual shareholder meeting last year.

The proposal was introduced by Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS), which manages $4.6bn for Catholic institutions worldwide. It is backed by the UK's Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, with assets of £115bn ($178.9bn), and British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, one of Canada's largest institutional investors.

In a separate resolution, Nathan Cummings Foundation, an ethical investment group, has called on News Corp to end the dual-class share structure that allows the Murdoch family to control its media empire despite owning a minority of shares.

A CBIS statement said: "A resolution introduced at last year's meeting which called for an independent chairman was approved by two-thirds of the independent shareholders, while another calling for the elimination of the company's dual-class share structure was approved by 62% of the public shareholders.

"The shareholders believe that by responding positively to these corporate governance issues, News Corporation can improve oversight of management, reduce business risk and better represent the interests of all shareholders. These two resolutions are the latest salvos in an ongoing campaign by concerned institutional investors to dramatically revise the corporate governance practices at News Corporation."

Pressure for change from shareholders has been mounting since the phone-hacking scandal at News Corp's UK newspapers triggered investigations on both sides of the Atlantic. Given the Murdoch family's control of News Corp's shares, the measures are unlikely to succeed.

The company announced last year that it is intending to split its publishing assets, including the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones and Times newspapers, from its faster-growing TV and film assets. Murdoch plans to be chairman of both companies.

News Corp released its latest quarterly results in New York later on Wednesday. The company's revenues rose 14% from a year earlier to $9.5bn in the quarter ended 31 March, ahead of analysts' expectations. Net income increased to $2.85bn as a 17% rise in its cable business offset a dip in its publishing earnings.

The company announced that the hacking scandal had cost it $42m over the quarter – the company has now incurred more than $380m in costs related to the scandal.

Chase Carey, News Corp's chief operating officer, said the new publishing company, News Corp, would update investors about future plans at the end of May. The TV and film business, to be called 21st Century Fox, will hold an investor conference in August.

Carey said he was "disappointed" with ratings at Fox, where viewership of the declining hit American Idol has slipped dramatically in the show's 12th season. The decline of Idol has helped CBS take the top slot among key advertising demographics, ending an eight-year run at the top for Fox. Fox will be unveiling new shows to advertisers and the press at the "upfronts" – the major media firms' seasonal showcases – next week.

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Rebekah Brooks pleads not guilty to charges related to phone hacking

Ex-News International chief denies conspiracy to commit phone hacking, pervert course of justice and unlawfully pay officials

Rebekah Brooks, the former News International chief executive, has pleaded not guilty to a series of criminal charges over a nine-year period when she edited the News of the World and the Sun, and latterly ran the newspaper publisher.

Brooks pleaded not guilty to five charges relating to three separate police investigations on Wednesday at Southwark crown court, where she appeared alongside a number of other defendants including her husband, Charlie Brooks, the racehorse trainer and friend of David Cameron.

She pleaded not guilty to one charge relating to an alleged conspiracy to hack phones between October 2000 and August 2006 and not guilty to two further charges relating to an alleged conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office by paying public officials money for stories.

The former News International chief also pleaded not guilty to two further charges connected to allegations that she conspired to pervert the course of justice after she was arrested in July 2011 in relation to alleged phone hacking.

Brooks's former secretary, Cheryl Carter, who sat in front of her in the dock, also pleaded not guilty to a charge of perverting the course of justice.

The second charge of conspiring to pervert the course of justice was made against Brooks along with six other defendants who sat with her in the glass dock and all of whom pleaded not guilty. These were her husband, News International director of security Mark Hanna, security officer Lee Sandell, chauffeur Paul Edwards and her former bodyguard, David Johnson.

A number of former News of the World executives and journalists were also in court on Wednesday facing one charge relating to phone hacking arising from the Metropolitan police's Operation Weeting.

The paper's former managing editor Stuart Kuttner, reporter James Weatherup and ex-royal reporter Clive Goodman all pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Court number 4 was packed with journalists and lawyers sitting in front of Mr Justice Saunders, who recently took charge of the cases arising from the phone-hacking scandal.

Among those forced to stand after queuing for an hour were the Labour MP Tom Watson who was at the vanguard of parliament's investigation into News of the World phone hacking and Mark Lewis, the solicitor representing alleged phone hacking victims.

The crown told the court it had changed the indictment in relation to alleged phone hacking to combine all of the original 19 charges into one.

Brooks sat throughout the two-hour hearing talking to Kuttner and taking notes on the back of a blue envelope.

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June 13, 2013
The New York Times
Rupert Murdoch Files for Divorce After 14 Years of Marriage


Rupert Murdoch has filed for divorce from his wife of 14 years, Wendi Deng Murdoch, with whom he has two daughters, according to a filing with New York State Supreme Court.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Murdoch’s media company, News Corporation, confirmed that Mr. Murdoch had made the filing, which said that the “relationship between husband and wife has broken down irretrievably.”

Mrs. Murdoch was informed in advance of Mr. Murdoch’s decision, according to a person close to the family. Ira E. Garr of the law firm Garr Silpe is representing Mr. Murdoch in the divorce.

The filing — which was first reported by Deadline Hollywood — comes after years of whispered comments that the couple had largely grown apart, pursuing separate interests, often from different coasts.

Mr. Murdoch, 82, first met Wendi Deng, 44, on a business trip to China when she was a young executive at his company’s Star TV division in Hong Kong. They wed in front of 82 guests in 1999 aboard Mr. Murdoch’s 155-foot yacht, the Morning Glory, in New York Harbor.

A year before they were married, Mr. Murdoch left his wife, Anna, to whom he had been married for 31 years. That divorce is reported to have cost Mr. Murdoch $1.7 billion, including $110 million in cash. He and Anna had three children — Lachlan, James and Elisabeth. Mr. Murdoch divorced his first wife, Patricia, in 1967. They had one daughter, Prudence.

The divorce from Wendi Murdoch and decisions about the place the couple’s daughters, Grace, 11, and Chloe, 9, will have in Mr. Murdoch’s media empire are expected to be contentious.

In 2006, a battle broke out when Mr. Murdoch said in an interview with Charlie Rose that Grace and Chloe would have an equal economic interest in the family’s trust, but would not have the same voting rights as his children from his previous two marriages. The couple worked out a more mutually acceptable agreement.

In recent years, Mrs. Murdoch, who was born to humble beginnings as Deng Wen Di in Jiangsu Province in eastern China, has taken on a wider range of professional endeavors, including producing the movie “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.” The movie was released by News Corporation’s Fox Searchlight division in July 2011 and was eclipsed when news surfaced that Mr. Murdoch’s British tabloid News of the World tabloid had hacked into the voice mail of Milly Dowler, a kidnapped and murdered teenager.

Mrs. Murdoch became a viral sensation during the phone hacking crisis when Mr. Murdoch testified in front of a British parliamentary subcommittee about the scandal. Wearing a pink blazer, Mrs. Murdoch, a former volleyball player, instinctively lurched toward a protester to protect her husband from a pie attack.

The News Corporation spokeswoman said the divorce would have no impact on the company. On June 28, the corporation will complete the split of its publishing and entertainment assetsinto two separate companies, to be called News Corp and 21st Century Fox, respectively.

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Angelina Jolie stunt double launches News Corp phone-hacking lawsuit

Eunice Huthart, who worked on Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, lodges the first hacking claim in the US against the Murdoch group

By Lisa O'Carroll

guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 18 June 2013 10.29 EDT

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/18/jolie-double-news-corp-phone-hacking-lawsuit?guni=Network front:network-front main-3 Main trailblock:Network front - main trailblock:Position14

Angelina Jolie: a stunt double for the star has launched a phone-hacking lawsuit in the US against News Corp. Photograph: Joanna Scheffel/DPA/Corbis

News Corporation is facing its first phone-hacking lawsuit in the US after a former stunt double for Angelina Jolie launched a lawsuit alleging her mobile phone messages were intercepted by the now defunct News of the World and the Sun.

The civil claim opens up a potential new frontline in News Corporation's battle to close the scandal, with the Sun accused of phone hacking for the first time.

Eunice Huthart, who is British, worked with the star from 2001 on blockbuster movies including Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Salt and Mr and Mrs Smith. She had previously enjoyed TV fame in the 1990s as Blaze in the UK entertainment show Gladiators.

She alleges that messages left on her phone were hacked when she was working in the US in 2005 on Mr & Mrs Smith.

Eunice Huthart as Blaze in UK TV show Gladiators. Photograph: ITV/Rex Features

Huthart claims in court papers filed in Los Angeles that "illegal activities were undertaken ... principally through the two newspapers, the Sun and the News of the World".

She cites several stories in the two titles, including a report in the Sun that she had started a relationship with her co-star Brad Pitt on the set of Mr & Mrs Smith, something that only their bodyguards, their PAs and Huthart knew.

The documents cite another story in the Sun that revealed she was wanted to go on motorbike rides with Pitt, in relation to the hacking allegations.

Huthart says she arranged for a friend to teach Jolie on his farm in Kent, but the stuntman's messages in relation to the lessons were intercepted.

"These messages appeared to have been hacked and deleted before she heard them," the documents say.

Huthart also claims a story in the News of the World revealing that Jolie was considering giving up acting came from eavesdropping on her phone messages.

Huthart says she and Jolie "developed a close friendship and often travelled and socialised together". They spent Christmas together in 2003 and 2004 and Huthart is godmother to Jolie's first biological child.

She claimed she did not receive messages left by family members and that her husband complained that she had not been responding to his messages.

"During one period when the plaintiff was in Los Angeles working on the film Mr & Mrs Smith, her daughter called several times to report that she was being bullied in school in Liverpool, England. Although plaintiff's daughter left messages asking her mother to call her back, plaintiff did not receive those messages and could not console her daughter."

The court papers say her husband also criticised her for not returning calls and "became very insecure as a result" and suspected her of having an affair.

The papers were lodged by Norman Siegal, the New York attorney who represented families of the victims of the September 11 victims.

The stunt double claims Jolie told her several times she had called Huthart and left messages and that she did not receive them because they had already been listened to.

On one occasion, Jolie had left a message on Huthart's phone to tell her she had checked into a hotel using the pseudonym Pocahontas but she went to the hotel not knowing what name to ask for even though Jolie had left this information on a voicemail. "Plaintiff never received it," says the documents.

"Ms Jolie had communicated with plaintiff on this subject prior to the article appearing in the newspaper, and would leave messages on plaintiff's cellphone, some of which she did not receive," the court filings say.

Huthart is seeking compensatory, statutory and punitive damages for violations of the Stored Communications Act, the Wiretap Act, the California constitution, and invasion of privacy and intrusion into private affairs.

News Corporation declined to comment

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Rupert Murdoch admits error in criticism of police investigations

Media mogul writes to MP Keith Vaz to retract 'incompetence' remark but says inquiries have taken too long

Read the full text of Murdoch's letter to Vaz


Rupert Murdoch has admitted he was wrong to describe phone-hacking and corrupt-payments investigations by police into his company and its journalists as "incompetent", in a letter sent to the chairman of the Commons home affairs select committee.

But writing to Keith Vaz, he has also questioned the proportionality of the investigations, which will have cost £40m by 2015 and have involved dawn raids involving up to 14 officers, and the arrest of scores of his journalists.

The letter marks the first time that the media chief has spoken about what he has termed a "highly emotional" meeting that occurred in March with journalists at the Sun who had been arrested and who face trial for allegedly paying public officials for information. The meeting was secretly recorded and subsequently leaked.

In his letter, which has been published by Vaz, Murdoch said: "I accept that I used the wrong adjectives to voice my frustration over the course of the police investigation. But I have been hearing for months about pre-dawn raids undertaken by as many as 14 police officers, and that some employees and their families were left in limbo for as much as a year and a half between arrest and charging decisions."

He said of the meeting on 14 March, requested by his staff: "I was reminded of the impact on families, including suicide attempts and medical conditions arising from the significant stress."

Recordings of the secretly recorded meeting were subsequently broadcast on the Exaro website.

Speaking to staff who were working for the Sun, Murdoch had said in the meeting: "Still, I mean, it's a disgrace. Here we are, two years later, and the cops are totally incompetent. So, I'll just ask you a question, I don't want to interrupt you – are you happy with the lawyers that have been provided?"

But there was a clear limit to his apology in the letter to Vaz. "I have no basis to question the competence of the police … but I do question whether, over the last two years, the police have approached these matters with an appropriate sense of proportion with regard for the human cost of delay.

"Whilst I regret my choice of words in that highly emotional meeting, I care deeply about our employees and I was and am troubled by the effect of these events on them."

The assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police, Cressida Dick, revealed to Vaz's committee last week that detectives were seeking a copy of the tape whether anything Murdoch said at the meeting amounted to alleged conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office – an allegation not addressed by him.

But when he was asked to comment on Dick's claims that the police investigation was very competent and progressing well, Murdoch said: "I cannot endorse the judgment that the investigation has 'progressed' very well, not when some of our employees were arrested early in the investigation in 2012 and they and their families are still in limbo awaiting charging decisions … My personal view is that this has gone on too long."

Those comments were endorsed by Vaz. "Mr Murdoch's letter does raise the issue of the length of time these investigations have taken which the home affairs committee has raise and which have so far cost the taxpayer £20.3m," he said.

The tape recording also heard Murdoch indicating that News UK – owner of the Sun, and the former News of the World – was no longer co-operating fully with the investigations. Police said they were having to seek court orders for some information. said in the letter that he made the decision in 2011 to co-operate fully with the police because "we thought it was the right thing to do". He said that after volunteering a mountain of evidence, including 500,000 documents, a further 1,900 requests for information had been made by the police.

"Over 98% of these requests have already been resolved to everyone's satisfaction," he added.

Vaz said: "I am pleased to hear News UK are co-operating with the Metropolitan police, and hope they continue to do so. It is in everyone's interests for them to redouble their efforts to co-operate which will speed up the investigation process and bring it to a conclusion."

In a separate letter to John Whittingdale, chairman of the Commons culture and media select committee, Murdoch rejected claims he was aware of his journalists paying police for information. "The 'reports' that I knew about, let alone tolerated payments to police, are completely false," he wrote. He said he accepted that his journalists should face the consequences of violating the law but insisted his staff had "been singled out for the harshest treatment".

Murdoch offered to appear before Whittingdale's committee on 29 July to be interrogated over the tape, but it is understood he was told the MPs on the committee would be on holiday and not able to accommodate him.

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News International could face corporate charges over phone hacking

Metropolitan police investigation has interviewed 'very senior figures' from organisation now known as News UK

'Senior figures' from Rupert Murdoch's News International corporation (now named UK News) have been formally interviewed by the Metropolitan police. Photograph: Noah Berger/AP

Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper division could face corporate charges in relation to the Metropolitan police's phone-hacking investigation, it has been claimed in a report by The Independent.

Two "very senior figures" in News International, now renamed as News UK, have been interviewed in relation to the corporate aspect of the investigation, which is also examining allegations of bribery of public officials, it has emerged.

The allegations indicate a new line of inquiry is opening into the Murdoch empire which has potentially serious consequences for News UK, the company that owns the Sun and the Times newspapers. In an attempt at damage limitation following the scandal, News Corp was separated from News UK.

Such an inquiry would mirror events in the US where the Department of Justice and the FBI are investigating Murdoch's US parent company, News Corp, under the Foreign and Corrupt Practices Act which can impose severe penalties on companies that bribe foreign officials.

Labour MP Chris Bryant, who was one of the most vocal critics of News International when phone hacking was uncovered, said the Met had told him they were "actively investigating corporate charges and that they were in correspondence with the American authorities, the FBI."

Bryant said the law in the UK is now as tough as in the US due to the enactment of the Bribery Act 2010.

"Under the Bribery Act, the body corporate can have charges laid against it if its corporate governance was so reckless as to be negligent," Bryant said.

Sue Akers, who was head of the Met investigation, confirmed to the Leveson Inquiry last year that she had sought legal advice with regard to bringing "both individual and corporate offences". Her comments sparked claims that News Corp directors could be prosecuted for neglect of their duties.

Now evidence is emerging that the Met is taking an active role in pursuing the corporate aspect of the investigation.

John Turnbull, a senior News Corp lawyer, has been interviewed formally by the Met, a source told Reuters. More than 125 people have so far been arrested and more than 40 charged in relation to the criminal aspect of the investigation which led to Murdoch closing the News of the World.

Sources say the Met is waiting until the criminal trials of individuals have concluded before deciding if it can press corporate charges.

Rebekah Brooks, the former News International chief executive, is due to stand trial along with eight others on September 9, while eight Sun journalists are scheduled to stand trial in January over alleged unlawful payments to public officials for stories.

The Met's detectives have benefited from an information-sharing agreement with News Corp's Management and Standards Committee (MSC), which was set up to conduct an internal investigation into the phone hacking and bribery allegations.

It has emerged that Akers sent a letter last year to Lord Grabiner, the MSC's chairman, advising him that there was a possibility corporate charges could be brought against Murdoch's companies.

"We have cooperated with all relevant authorities throughout the process and our history of assistance is a matter of record," a News UK spokesman said.

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September 3, 2013

A Scandal-Scalded Murdoch as a Song-and-Dance Man


The New York Times

September 3, 2013-09-04


It has been an eventful couple of years for Rupert Murdoch. In Britain, evidence that reporters at several of his newspapers routinely hacked into private cellphones as they pursued hot stories led to the demise of News of the World, one of his mightiest tabloids, and incited an official government inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press.

Last June, Mr. Murdoch announced that he was divorcing his third wife, Wendi Deng, whom he married in 1999. And now, with Australia in the midst of a federal election campaign, Mr. Murdoch, a harsh critic of the incumbent Labor Party and the owner of 70 percent of the country’s newspapers, is once again the topic of the day in his native land.

The dramatists have taken note. Richard Bean, the author of “One Man, Two Guvnors,” is writing a play on the phone-hacking scandal for the National Theater in London at the invitation of its artistic director, Nicholas Hytner. Closer to home, the Melbourne Theater Company has just staged the premiere of “Rupert,” a cabaret-style dramatization of Mr. Murdoch’s life by one of Australia’s best-known playwrights, David Williamson.

The play, which opened on Thursday at the Arts Center in Melbourne, uses two actors to play Murdoch. Guy Edmonds is the young Rupert. Sean O’Shea, appearing as Mr. Murdoch’s 82-year-old self, also offers commentary and direction as the action unfolds — very quickly to accommodate a career spanning more than six decades.

Mr. Williamson, whose fiddling with the text and constant updating took him through 50 revisions, starts with Mr. Murdoch as the young heir to a failing Australian newspaper and follows him as he parlays success in Australia to tabloid triumphs in Britain, the purchase of The Times of London, and inroads into the United States.

Little is left out, not even the shaving-cream pie that a comedian heaved at Mr. Murdoch when he appeared to testify before a parliamentary committee looking into the hacking scandal.

The six other members of the ensemble cast take on multiple roles to populate an often crowded canvas.

The reviews have been good, although critics hoping to see Mr. Murdoch’s head served on a platter came away disappointed.

The Age, Melbourne’s non-Murdoch daily, praised Mr. O’Shea’s portrayal of Mr. Murdoch as “a roguish larrikin” (Australian slang for a hooligan or rowdy) with a “hint of menace beneath the charisma,” while complaining that Mr. Williamson pulled too many punches.

It was an open question how the Murdoch-owned papers would handle the subject. The Australian, a national daily owned by Mr. Murdoch, gave a more than respectful account of the play. Its reviewer complained that Mr. Williamson had tried to cram too many events into one evening’s entertainment, but called the first act “light and delightfully funny.” Lee Lewis, the director, he wrote, “sets a cracking pace, and her cast doesn’t miss a beat.”

The hands-off approach to Mr. Murdoch was deliberate, Mr. Williamson said, part and parcel of his decision to depart from his more familiar naturalistic style and use the cabaret format.

The Murdoch character “invites the audience to see his real story,” not the story from what a Murdoch paper might call “effete caffe-latte-sipping inner-city left-liberal elites,” Mr. Williamson said. “He casts his own show so that the younger version of himself is considerably more handsome and dynamic than he was, but, as he tells his audience, this is his show, so he can do what he likes.”

Mr. Williamson is probably better known to American audiences as a screenwriter. He wrote the film version of his play “Don’s Party,” directed by Bruce Beresford, and the screenplays for “Gallipoli” and “The Year of Living Dangerously,” both directed by Peter Weir.

In Australia, where he first rose to prominence in the early 1970s, he is best known for satirical plays like “The Removalists,” “The Perfectionist” and Brilliant Lies,” which he has turned out at the rate of nearly one a year.

Brett Sheehy, the artistic director of the Melbourne Theater Company, approached Mr. Williamson a year and a half ago to write a play. “I told him I’d love him to consider something which was a bit different from his usual work — something which was thematically very global,” Mr. Sheehy said. “I asked him where was the heat and passion in discussions with his friends, at dinner parties, barbecues, get-togethers? He said: ‘Oh God, that’s easy. The power relationship between the media and politics. The News of the World troubles. The Leveson Inquiry.’ ”

Mr. Sheehy suggested that he take that as his subject, and splash it on a big canvas.

“Rupert immediately sprang to mind as a subject,” Mr. Williamson said. “He is the most powerful Australian or ex- Australian ever to have lived.”

A dramatic precursor immediately presented itself: Richard III. “Both men, through a combination of boldness, ruthlessness, charm and steely ambition rose to rule their realms,” Mr. Williamson said. “Richard gets his comeuppance on Bosworth Field, but what’s remarkable about Rupert is that he never does. The other difference, I guess, is that Richard killed many to get to the top. Rupert just fires anyone who doesn’t toe the ideological line.”

As a dramatic figure, Mr. Murdoch has already made his debut on the stage, as the thinly disguised press baron Lambert Le Roux in “Pravda,” David Hare and Howard Brenton’s 1985 satire about the British newspaper industry. Anthony Hopkins took the role.

In “Selling Hitler,” a 1991 British television mini-series about the Hitler diaries hoax, Barry Humphries acted the part of Mr. Murdoch, whose newspaper The Sunday Times (in London) ran excerpts from the fake diaries.

In an interview with The Age, Mr. Bean described his play in progress as “funny but grotesque,” and, in an adjectival pileup, a “state of the nation, press, politics and police in bed with each other” play.

Mr. Murdoch was invited to “Rupert,” but has not responded. A theater spokeswoman said that members of his extended family were expected. The play is to come to Washington in March for five performances at the International Theater Festival.

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Phone-hacking jury warned of prejudice risk in trial of Brooks and Coulson

British justice also on trial, says judge as he tells jurors to ignore comments they may come across in all media

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The jury in the News of the World phone-hacking trial has been told that British justice is on trial in addition to Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and their co-defendants.

Mr Justice Saunders told the jury of nine women and three men at the Old Bailey in London that the case had attracted "perhaps an unprecedented amount of publicity" across all media, and that some content, particularly on the internet, was inaccurate, offensive, demeaning and ill-informed.

Saunders said some of the eight defendants were well known public figures and some had been written about on social media, but he directed the jurors to ignore comments they may come across during the trial, which is expected to last up to six months. The prosecution is expected to open its case at 2pm on Wednesday.

He drew particular attention to the latest issue of Private Eye published on Tuesday. Shortly after being sworn in, the jury was shown the magazine. "It bears a picture of Rebekah Brooks on the cover. It's meant to be satire. You ignore it," Saunders said. "It has no serious input and it's not relevant to your consideration. It's one of those things which you will have to ignore – a joke, that in the circumstances of today is a joke in especially bad taste."

The cover was referred to the attorney general Dominic Grieve. His spokesman said: "The front cover of the current edition of Private Eye has been brought to the attention of the attorney general, but it has been decided that proceedings for a potential contempt of court are not required in this case."

Saunders stressed that his directions to the jury were extremely important because they raised a concern about what jurors would read on the internet, which was outside the British judicial system. "In a way, it is not only the defendants who are on trial but British justice is on trial," he said.

He directed the jury not to discuss the case with others, not to look up back editions of newspapers, not to look up anything on the internet and not to look up anything at all to do with the case, those involved and the witnesses. "It is absolutely vital that you try this case solely on the evidence and arguments that you hear in court. There has been a great deal of publicity, perhaps an unprecedented amount which amongst other things concerns phone hacking at the News of the World," Saunders said.

"A significant amount of speculation has been inaccurate and misleading," he told the jury. "As you will appreciate, the role of juror is vital, it is essential – essential – that you put all that material that you may have become aware of before the trial out of your mind."

He warned jurors about blogs by "well known actors, musicians, politicians and others", saying they were "on topics about which they know very little". Saunders said: "It is very much hoped that they will not do so [blog] the trial and they may well be breaking the law if they do so and I hope appropriate [action] will be taken against them if they do [blog]."

He said jurors who breached his directions could face a contempt of court action and be punished by a fine or imprisonment. Trials in the past have sometimes have had to be abandoned because jurors disobeyed the judge's directions, he added.

Saunders said he was not going to order the jurors "not to go on to Facebook or any social media for the duration of the trial" but "I urge you to consider whether you ought to" and said they should avoid reading comment on the trial.

Brooks, the former News International chief executive, and Coulson, the former Downing Street communications director, are former News of the World editors and the most well known figures in the trial.

They are facing a variety of charges including conspiracy to listen to mobile phone voicemails of politicians, celebrities and others, conspiring to commit misconduct in public office and authorising payments to public officials, a charge also faced by the paper's former royal correspondent Clive Goodman.

Brooks faces a charge of conspiring to pervert the course of justice with her husband, Charlie, an allegation also faced by her former personal assistant, Cheryl Carter, and News International's head of security, Mark Hanna.

Stuart Kuttner, former managing editor of the News of the World, and Ian Edmondson, the paper's former head of news, are accused of being involved in the alleged phone hacking conspiracy.

All eight have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The jury heard that Kuttner would not be required to attend the trial every day because he had "a history of heart attacks" and "a brain stem stroke".

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Phone-hacking trial: three ex-News of the World staff plead guilty

Prosecution reveals news editors admitted charges as it outlines case against Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and others

Three former News of the World employees have pleaded guilty to phone hacking charges, an Old Bailey jury was told this afternoon, as part of the opening of the trial of Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson, Brooks's husband and four other former employees of the now closed Sunday newspaper.

The crown prosecutor revealed that the individuals had already pleaded guilty at an earlier stage in proceedings, as he outlined to the court that News of the World was at the centre of three criminal conspiracies dating back to the year 2000, involving the two former editors.

Andrew Edis QC said that those pleading guilty were former News of the World news editors Neville Thurlbeck, Greg Miskiw and James Weatherup. The court also heard that the private investigator contracted by the newspaper to undertake the alleged hacking, Glenn Mulcaire, had pleaded guilty.

But the prosecuting counsel told the jury that journalism was not on trial. "There is no justification of any kind for journalists for getting involved in phone hacking. That is an intrusion into people's privacy which is against the law," Edis said. "The prosecution says that journalists are no more entitled to break the law than anyone else," he added.

Edis told the court that the criminal activity was discovered as a result of a police investigation into the paper in 2011 following the revelation that the telephone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler "had been hacked by somebody acting on behalf of the News of the World".

The prosecuting counsel told the jury that "the events were very big at the time" but that they must put what they remember about them "out of their mind" and try the case on the evidence that they heard.

Edis also told them they did not have to remember everything they heard during his opening. "This is not a memory test, it's a long trial," he said referring to the estimated five to six months allotted for the case. "There are three types of criminal behaviour alleged here," Edis told the jury.

The jury heard that the first centred on alleged phone hacking conducted by a private investigator hired by the paper, Glenn Mulcaire, "who was very good finding out personal codes" which were used to access other people's voicemails remotely.

"Mr Mulcaire was very good indeed at getting the codes for people's phones and therefore able to get into other people's messages. It was very useful," Edis said.

He added that Mulcaire's activities helped the tabloid prove the truth of news under investigation such as affairs of people they were interesting in writing about.

The second conspiracy centred on paying "public officials, civil servants, police officers, soldiers" for confidential information, Edis said.

The third type of criminal behaviour related to an alleged conspiracy to pervert the course of justice when the investigation into the paper was ongoing in July 2011. Some of the people on trial, Edis said, were "secretly trying to prevent information coming to the attention of the police".

The crown opened its case to the jury of nine women and three men by identifying the location of the eight defendants in the dock at the back of court 12 starting with Ian Edmondson, the former head of news at the Sunday newspaper, who sat closest to the door.

Next to him was Brooks, the former chief executive of News International and a former editor of the News of the World and the Sun who is facing five charges spanning a decade linked to all three conspiracies – the conspiracy to intercept mobile telephone voice messages, a conspiracy to corrupt public officials by paying them for information and a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. On her left sat Coulson, another former News of the World editor, who took on the job after Brooks.

Next to him was a seat for a fourth defendant Stuart Kuttner, the paper's former managing editor. Both Coulson and Kuttner are facing charges linked to a phone-hacking conspiracy.

The Sunday paper's former royal editor, Clive Goodman, was next in the row of eight, and faces a charge of conspiring to cause misconduct in public office by offering money to public officials for information.

Next to him in the dock was Rebekah Brooks's former personal assistant Cheryl Carter and her husband Charlie Brooks, who are facing charges linked to perverting the course of justice.

The final defendant is the then News International head of security, Mark Hanna, who also faces charges linked to perverting the course of justice.

Notebooks belonging to Rebekah Brooks, and computers and other material which could have been relevant to the phone hacking inquiry were hidden from police investigating it, the jury was told.

Material was removed from Brooks's London and Gloucestershire homes immediately before the News of the World was shut down in 2011 in the wake of allegations that Dowler's phone had been hacked, Edis said.

"It wasn't a secret that there was an investigation going on and by July of 2011 when the Milly Dowler allegation was being made, there was a great storm of publicity," Edis added.

The prosecution said there was "quite a complicated little operation" to hide material from the police who were investigating.

Edis said it was also alleged that Brooks asked Carter to remove her "journalistic notebooks" from the News International archive, where they were being stored.

"They were got out of the archive on the Friday before the last edition of the News of the World was published," he said, adding that the notebooks had "disappeared ... The police would have wanted to know what was in those notebooks."

Edis added that Brooks, her husband Charlie, and security official Hanna had "ensured that material the police would have wanted – computers, documents, things like that – were carried out of the Brooks's country home in Gloucestershire and taken to News International offices in Wapping".

"On their way or as part of the same operation, material was collected from their London flat and taken to the same place."

He said one might imagine that material would be "directly relevant to the police inquiry".

"Quite a complicated operation was set up to prevent that happening, which was discovered as a result of an accident which was rather bad luck for those conspirators involved." Edis said he would give more details later, but said that the circumstances were "quite memorable".

Earlier Edis said the prosecution case was that "people in charge of the purse strings" at the News of the World knew about phone hacking. "We say we will be able to show that there was phone hacking at the News of the World. That Glenn Mulcaire did it. That Clive Goodman did it, and that Ian Edmondson did it."

The case continues.

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Poster's note: A real "conspiracy?" Is the New York Times actually using that word? Ah, but only with the British hacking trial, not with the assassination of JFK.

October 30, 2013
The New York Times
As Prosecution Opens Its Case in British Hacking Trial, a Claim of Conspiracy


LONDON — The prosecution opened its case on Wednesday at a phone hacking trial here, telling the jury of nine women and three men that four people involved with The News of the World had already pleaded guilty to phone hacking and that he would prove that the illegal acts were “a conspiracy” approved by some of those on trial now, including two former editors, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson.

Ms. Brooks and Mr. Coulson, along with the other four defendants in this trial, have denied guilt, and the case is expected to take up to six months to conclude.

Opening the case, Andrew Edis, a prosecutor, said, “We will be able to show that there was phone hacking at The News of the World” and jurors had to decide “who knew.”

Mr. Edis identified those who pleaded guilty at an earlier stage in the proceedings as three journalists — The News of the World’s former chief correspondent, Neville Thurlbeck; a former assistant news editor, James Weatherup; and a former news editor, Greg Miskiw — and Glenn Mulcaire, a private detective hired by the newspaper, now defunct.

Those pleas, Mr. Edis said, showed that “there was a conspiracy which involved a significant number of people.”

The case grew out of a scandal that has been two years in the making and that has prompted new calls for regulating the rambunctious British press.

Efforts toward that end accelerated on Wednesday with the approval of a government-backed media regulatory system that the publishers had earlier failed to stop in the courts. The publishers have proposed setting up an alternative watchdog and many say they will not cooperate with the more official body.

That will be set up under a royal charter approved Wednesday, because Prime Minister David Cameron did not want Parliament to legislate any press restrictions.

All major political parties have agreed to the charter, which would set up what its proponents say is a independent watchdog group to oversee a media regulator.

But cooperation with the new system will be voluntary, and the publishers have said they will set up their own monitoring system in any event. As an incentive to cooperate with the charter, publishers will be given better protection from libel damages if they sign up.

The main difference between the proposals is in provisions for future modification of the rules, which the politicians want to be the prerogative of Parliament.

“The politicians claim the charter will protect the press, though the ineluctable fact is Parliament could change it for the worst at any time in the future,” the conservative Daily Mail said in an editorial published on Wednesday.

But the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said the politicians’ charter “will protect press freedom while offering real redress when mistakes are made.”

It will take some time before any new system is up and running, and if publishers refuse to cooperate with it, it will mark one more failed effort at moderating the excesses of the British press.

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