December 6, 2021

Rebekah and the trial that cost £100million: £50m on the defence, £40m spent by taxpayers and 195 police officers diverted from other duties

Pin It

article-2670047-12251429000005DC-164_306x482By Stephen Wright and Richard Pendlebury From Daily Mail UK

Hacking trial itself cost £1.75m while police investigations topped £30m

Up to £50m spent on defence lawyers – and there are more cases to come

Met’s Homicide Command has a budget of just £75m for 100 murders a year

Retired murder detective: Top officers were diverted from death probes

On the evening of July 17, 2011, the day that News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to phone hack, her husband Charlie ordered a takeaway pizza. A member of the Brookses’ security team was tasked to travel miles across London to collect the meal and deliver it to their Chelsea home.

For the record, the pizza was a large Italian Supreme, with a side order of garlic bread. Retail price: £9.99. We know this because the episode became central to the disastrous Old Bailey prosecution case against Mr Brooks, who was charged with perverting the course of justice.

article-2670047-1F2166F800000578-372_634x289The Crown alleged, wrongly, that the pizza’s arrival was merely a smokescreen behind which Mr Brooks could cover up the return of previously-hidden personal laptops that would incriminate his wife. The Old Etonian denied this, of course. He had simply been trying to conceal his large collection of lesbian pornography.

Justice had to delve further. A ‘restaurant excellence analyst’ from Pizza Hut was called as an expert witness. Under oath he testified that the meal in question had gone in the oven at exactly 8.17pm and taken precisely ten minutes and six seconds to article-2670047-1F1473C300000578-228_634x685bake.

‘You might think that is one of the most expensive pizza deliveries in history,’ Mr Justice Saunders observed drily to the 11 surviving jury members in the final hour of his summing up of 110 days of evidence, almost three years after the event.

‘I hope they were good pizzas after all that.’

The judge’s weary quip only led to more ludicrous and costly legal arguments concerning pizzas — at approximately £100 a minute — before, at last, the jury were sent out to consider their verdicts. They did so with the help of so much documented evidence that it required a 304-page index.

After eight days’ consideration, Mr and Mrs Brooks were cleared of all charges, along with her PA, security chief and another former News of the World executive.

article-2670047-1F13D43A00000578-85_634x465Andy Coulson, Mrs Brooks’s successor as Editor at the News of the World, was found guilty of conspiring to hack phones, and yesterday the jury was discharged after failing to agree on two further charges against him and the paper’s former royal editor Clive Goodman.

Yet one matter was already far beyond dispute; the expense to the public purse of the recent Leveson Inquiry into the Press and the ongoing multiple police investigations into phone and computer hacking and corrupt payments by journalists at News International is unprecedented.

With the end of the so-called ‘Trial of the Century’ and further article-2670047-1F13D25F00000578-363_634x452interrelated trials scheduled to take place later this year and in early 2015, the running total to the taxpayer already stands at more than £40 million.

Figures as high as £50 million have been quoted for defence legal costs, which if true would bring a total bill close to £100 million. Some suspects will have been on bail for close on four years by the time they come to trial. If they ever do.

How has this happened?

In the current lexicon of Scotland Yard terminology, few words are used more often than ‘proportionality’. Detectives are constantly article-2670047-1F1D775100000578-254_634x440reminded that the amount of resources devoted to an investigation should be ‘proportionate’ to the crimes committed.

You shouldn’t send 50 officers to attend a minor road traffic accident. Nor should you assign a handful of constables to the hunt for a terrorist cell known to be preparing an atrocity.

The Leveson Inquiry heard that the proportionality maxim was behind the Metropolitan Police’s failure to fully investigate the extent of phone-hacking and other criminal activities at the News of the World when they first came to its attention in 2006.

Cost of the phone hacking investigation: How the numbers stacked up

article-2670047-0CF45BF600000578-349_306x423Peter Clarke, the Deputy Assistant Commissioner in charge of that inquiry, explained that the Met had other priorities in the months following the 7/7 and 21/7 London terror attacks in 2005 which claimed 52 lives and left hundreds injured. There was also the liquid bomb plot against airlines to stop.

‘Invasions of privacy are odious, distressing and illegal . . . but to put it bluntly they don’t kill you, terrorists do,’ Clarke told Leveson.

As it was, royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were both jailed. The News of the World’s editor Andy Coulson stepped down shortly afterwards.

The slide towards disproportionality began in 2007, with David Cameron’s catastrophic decision to appoint the obviously tainted Coulson as communications chief of the Conservative Party.

The Left-leaning Guardian newspaper was ill-disposed towards both Cameron’s Tories and News International boss Rupert Murdoch, and with Coulson in the Conservatives’ team, the paper sought evidence of misdeeds during his time in charge of the News of the World.

The opportunity to inflict serious damage only increased when Cameron took Coulson to Downing Street as his spin chief. The Guardian and an alliance of Labour and Lib Dem MPs, fronted by a handful of tabloid-hating celebrities, strained to take advantage. Perhaps they could even bring down Mrs Brooks, Coulson’s old boss.

In January 2011, after a series of damaging revelations in the Guardian and New York Times, the Met launched Operation Weeting — a reopening of the phone-hacking investigation.

But however much the liberal broadsheets, Max Mosley, Hugh Grant, Steve Coogan et al huffed and puffed, it is questionable whether even Mulcaire’s carpet-bomb approach to the electronic eavesdropping — 5,500 names were found on his files — would have moved public opinion to outrage.

While seedy and illegal, the conspiracy by a few corrupt journalists needed a tipping-point allegation to cause widespread disgust and force the embattled Prime Minister to dramatic action — if only to ease his own position.

That came in the Guardian’s bombshell front page story of July 5, 2011. It stated that the News of the World had hacked the mobile phone of the murdered Surrey schoolgirl Milly Dowler and deleted some of the voicemail messages, thus creating a ‘false hope’ for Milly’s parents that she was still alive.

It was not until much later that it emerged the story was inaccurate. The News of the World had not deleted Milly’s messages. But thanks to the firestorm the story created, events had taken on their own momentum.

Within days the pressure group Hacked Off had been launched, the News of the World had closed in disgrace, the embattled Cameron had announced the leviathan Leveson Inquiry, Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and Assistant Commissioner John Yates had resigned and Operation Weeting was taken to another level.

Operations Elveden and Tuleta, looking at corrupt payments and computer-hacking, were also launched by the Met.

The officer put in overall charge of these inquiries, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, made a statement which chimed with official responses to other more serious national crises: ‘I have huge sympathy for those who may have been the victims of phone hacking or intrusion into their private lives,’ she said. ‘It must be incredibly distressing to see details of the information held, or speculation about what may be held, about them in the media. This is forcing them to relive devastating experiences.’

Presumably she was not referring to the love lives of Hugh Grant, David Blunkett, Jude Law or Sienna Miller, though hacked celebrities would constitute the majority of the alleged victims. At the hacking trial Mr Justice Saunders would express the forlorn hope that his trial would not ‘become a celebrity chat show . . . I am quite keen for people like Jude Law not to come.’

Alas, it did and he would. Proportionality was about to go out of the window. Akers had told the Leveson Inquiry that her officers would ‘go where the evidence takes us’.

And no expense has been spared in the Met’s pursuit of suspect journalists.

Inside the Yard, an attachment to Weeting or related operations has been seen as ‘great work if you can get it’ in terms of earnings (generous overtime payments), glamour (taking statements off celebrity victims of alleged media crime) and extensive travel.

The official financial figures are staggering.

The Met admits that since early 2011 it has spent almost £33 million on investigations into journalists’ activities, or supporting the Leveson Inquiry, which itself cost more than £5 million to hold.

A former high-ranking Yard detective told the Mail that the cost of the matrix of investigations is likely to be far higher than the figures provided by the Metropolitan Police. ‘There is the issue of invisible costs such as accommodation, computers and vehicles,’ he said.

At the height of the Met’s manpower commitment, 195 officers were dedicated to these specific Press investigations. This was in a period which included the force’s biggest ever security operation, to protect the 2012 London Olympics.

Even now, some 130 are working on related inquiries and will be doing so into 2015.

To put this in context, the Met’s Homicide Command, which has 900 staff and deals with more than 100 killings each year, has an annual budget of around £75 million. A recently retired senior Met murder detective said: ‘The [phone-hacking investigation] costs are heavily disproportionate.

‘We have some 20 new unsolved murders every year in London and yet some good senior investigating officers (from the murder squads) were being drafted over to Weeting, to do that job instead.’

But the officers on secondment pursued suspects in a manner reminiscent of the murder squads and in numbers unequalled in an investigation unconnected with mass public disorder or terrorism.

The three main police operations —Weeting, Elveden and Tuleta — have led to 215 people being arrested or interviewed under caution. Of these, 96 were journalists.

So far little more than a quarter (63) have been charged with an offence. Many of the 215 were arrested in dawn raids and had their homes taken apart, as if they were gangsters.

Some were kept on bail for more than a year before being told no further action would be taken.

One suspect, arrested before Christmas 2011, spent 19 months on bail before being charged with alleged corruption. Her trial is not expected to take place until this autumn.

Now compare these statistics with the police action taken following the Press exposure of the MPs’ expenses scandal in 2009.

Sources close to the Met investigation into parliamentary expenses claims said that as many as 60 MPs and peers could have been charged with criminal offences. But because the threshold for prosecutions was set so ‘very high’, only eight actually were charged — seven of whom went to jail.

The trial against the other did not proceed on mental health grounds.

How different it has been for journalists and public officials caught up in the various media crime investigations.

One former senior murder squad officer told the Mail: ‘If the same evidential standards, energy and resources were applied to Weeting and Elveden as to investigating the parliamentary expenses scandal, very few journalists would have been charged’

It is ironic that the offensive has been driven with relish by a Scotland Yard commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, who had previously courted all sections of the print media for tête à tête meals at places such as the Dorchester hotel.

And so after long delay the Trial of the Century was slated to unfold in Court 12, on the third floor of the Old Bailey building.

It got under way in October last year and was supposed to have been over by Easter. But there were 25 court days of pre-trial legal argument and numerous delays once the jury was sworn in. Autumn became winter, then spring and now summer.

The cluttered scene in Court 12 spoke of the length and complexity of the case. Eight QCs and ten junior barristers were present in court every day of the trial.

Author Peter Jukes, who has already written one book on the Murdoch empire, ‘live tweeted’ the entire case from the Press benches. By the end of the summing up he had tapped out 481,029 words, several thousand more than Tolkien’s three-volume epic Lord Of The Rings.

Time is money — and minutes, hours and days come expensive at the Old Bailey. In March Mr Justice Saunders was already observing, ruefully: ‘We have probably the most expensive case in the country here.’

Indeed, Crown Prosecution Service figures show it has spent £1.16 million on barristers’ fees alone.

When the Kray twins were convicted of murder at the Old Bailey in 1969, bringing to an end their organised crime empire, the trial was described as the longest and most expensive held at those courts. In fact, it lasted 39 days, little more than a third of the length of the hacking trial.

Ronnie and Reggie had been arrested only a year before. Both were sentenced to life and died in prison.

Serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, was arrested by chance in January 1981 and despite pleading not guilty, was convicted by a jury after a two-week trial that May. He, too, will die behind bars.

Coulson is still to be sentenced. But Mrs Brooks will not go to jail. Nor will her husband and the other three not- guilty defendants in the multi-million pound Trial of the Century.

Two days after the jury were sent out to decide their futures Rebekah and Charlie Brooks were at the theatre to see the stage adaptation of Bring Up The Bodies — Hilary Mantel’s novel about Henry VIII’s bloody and intrigue-filled court.

Henry wants rid of his wife Anne Boleyn. So lovers must be found or invented to prove her adultery.

‘He needs guilty men,’ observes one of the characters. ‘So he has found men who are guilty. Though perhaps not guilty as charged.’

In Henry’s time the ill-favoured paid with their heads. Today it is the public purse which has paid the most outrageous price for politicking and expedience.


Cleared: Rebekah and Charlie Brooks were in one of the most expensive trials in history

As Rebekah Brooks was cleared, one matter was already far beyond dispute; the expense to the public purse of the recent Leveson Inquiry into the Press and the ongoing multiple police investigations

Serious damage: Rebekah Brooks with Rupert Murdoch in July 2011

The claim in the Guardian newspaper which forced the closure of the News of the World – that journalists deleted the voicemails on the phone of Milly Dowler (pictured) – later turned out not to be true

Proportion: The investigation into Rebekah and Charlie Brooks took resources away from murders

Guilty: Andy Coulson will be sentenced next Friday – a rare coup for the embattled Crown Prosecution Service

For more on this story and to see the video go to:


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About ieyenews

Speak Your Mind