'No smoking gun' in UK hacking case against Brooks, court told

Tue May 20, 2014 9:59am EDT
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By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - The phone-hacking trial of Rupert Murdoch's former British newspaper boss Rebekah Brooks was told on Tuesday there was no "smoking gun" evidence to prove she knew about illegal interception of celebrities' voicemail messages.

The seven-month trial, now nearing its end, has heard that Brooks condoned the practice at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid in an effort to discover exclusive stories.

The scandal, which erupted three years ago, enmeshed large swathes of Britain's political establishment due to the close links Murdoch and his lieutenants enjoyed with the main political parties.

Brooks denies knowing about phone-hacking while she was editor of the paper and on Tuesday her defence lawyer Jonathan Laidlaw told the Old Bailey court she could not win because of critical and unfair media coverage.

"Whatever the evidence, she had started at a disadvantage, some yards behind the starting line and she can't win," he said in his closing speech.

Laidlaw said the case against her was circumstantial, based on theories pursued by police and prosecutors against a backdrop of hostile media coverage. This had ranged from "criticism and comment through inaccuracy and bias to downright cruelty and vitriol".

He added: "This case has been described as the trial of the century. Much nonsense, complete nonsense, has been spoken about these proceedings. Awful things have been said about Rebekah Brooks herself over the last few years."

Laidlaw said the prosecution had failed to produce the "mass of evidence, a welter of material" despite a huge police investigation.   Continued...

Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks arrives at the Old Bailey courthouse in London April 16, 2014. REUTERS/Neil Hall