Bloomberg News

Brooks Loses Bid for ‘Core’ Role in U.K. Phone-Hacking Probe

September 14, 2011

(Adds Brooks’s job as editor in fifth paragraph.)

Sept. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive officer of News Corp.’s British publishing unit, lost a bid to have formal legal representation in the U.K. government’s inquiry into phone hacking.

Brooks, who was arrested in July, shouldn’t be a so-called core participant in the inquiry’s hearings because she resigned as CEO, according to a judgment today by Justice Brian Leveson, who is leading the review. Core-participant status and right to have a lawyer present was granted to 46 lawyers and potential hacking victims, including Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and British actor Hugh Grant.

“Had Mrs. Brooks still been employed by News International Ltd., it may be that she would have coordinated its response; that responsibility now passes to someone else,” Leveson said today. News Corp.’s U.K. unit and the Metropolitan Police were also given core-participant status.

The probe of the culture, practices and ethics of the press was announced on July 13 by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, nine days after the revelation that journalists at News Corp.’s News of the World hacked into the phone of murdered school girl Milly Dowler. The probe’s scope extends beyond the now-shuttered tabloid, covering the wider press, including journalists’ contact with politicians and the police.

Brooks, 43, edited the News of the World from 2000 to 2003 and then The Sun newspaper until 2009 before being promoted to CEO of News International, which published both titles. She stepped down on July 15, two days before being arrested.

Mulcaire Hacking

While Brooks was editing the News of the World, the company’s private investigator Glenn Mulcaire was hacking into celebrities’ mobile phones to get scoops for reporters. She has denied knowing about the practice. Mulcaire pleaded guilty to hacking and was jailed in 2007.

A spokeswoman for Brooks with Bell Pottinger in London, declined to comment.

Police, who have arrested 16 people since reopening the hacking probe in January, are also investigating whether journalists bribed officers for confidential information. The scandal led New York-based News Corp. to close the 168-year-old tabloid and drop its 7.8 billion-pound ($12.3 billion) bid for full control of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc.

Leveson said in July he would use his powers to compel witnesses to give statements and provide documents. He said he may miss Cameron’s suggested 12-month deadline for an initial report because of the complexities and breadth of the inquiry.

Taylor Settlement

Mark Lewis, a lawyer for dozens of alleged victims, including Dowler’s parents and sister, was also made a core participant. He represented Gordon Taylor when News Corp. paid the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association a then-secret settlement over phone hacking.

“I hope that my evidence will assist the inquiry into determining the true extent of the power of the press,” Lewis said in a statement. The press’s influence over politics and policing affects people both directly and indirectly, he said.

Dowler’s family was granted core-participant status, as were celebrity lawyer Graham Shear, whose phone may have been hacked, and Sienna Miller, the actress whose early civil lawsuit against News International resulted in new hacking evidence being uncovered.

Other core participants include sports agent Sky Andrew, politician Simon Hughes, celebrity publicist Max Clifford and former Formula One executive Max Mosley, who won a record 60,000-pound judgment in 2008 against News of the World for violating his right to privacy.

--With assistance from Alex Morales in London. Editors: Christopher Scinta, Peter Chapman

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Larson in London at elarson4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net


China's Killer Profits
LIMITED-TIME OFFER SUBSCRIBE NOW
 
blog comments powered by Disqus