Brooks admits she sanctioned payments to public officials

February 28, 2014 - 6:07:21 am
LONDON: Rebekah Brooks, Rupert Murdoch’s former British newspaper boss, told a London court yesterday she had sanctioned payments to public officials “half a dozen times” but denied approving the illegal sums for which she is on trial.

Brooks is accused of authorising almost £40,000 ($66,000) in illegal payments from a reporter on Murdoch’s Sun tabloid to a Ministry of Defence (MoD) official while she was editor of the paper.

She denies a charge of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office, and other offences of conspiracy to hack phones and perverting the course of justice.

Furore over phone-hacking by journalists at the News of the World tabloid, which she also edited, led to the closure of the paper in 2011, rocked Murdoch’s media empire and had repercussions across the British political establishment.

However, the offence relating to authorising illegal payments carries a potentially much lengthier jail sentence.

Giving evidence for a fifth day at London’s Old Bailey court, Brooks said “there had to be an overwhelming public interest” to justify payments to officials and only in “very narrow circumstances”.

Asked by her defence lawyer if she had ever sanctioned such payments, which is illegal, Brooks replied: “Yes, probably since I was deputy editor of the Sun, 1998 to 2009, a handful of occasions, half a dozen.”

Brooks was asked about a series of stories she approved that the prosecution says relate to illegal payments by a Sun journalist, who cannot be named for legal reasons, to an MoD official.

Brooks said she had not known who the reporter’s source was, nor that she was a public official. “He probably should have brought it to my attention, absolutely,” she said. The jury were also shown emails from the reporter asking Brooks to authorise payments to his “number one military contact”, to which she replied: “Of course”.