Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive officer at News Corp. (NWSA:US)’s U.K. publishing unit arrested last year in probes of tabloid phone hacking and police bribery, had a retired police horse in her stable from 2008 to 2010.
Brooks, a horse-riding enthusiast who resigned from London-based News International two days before her arrest in July, housed and fed the animal as part of a program for horses that are retired from service with mounted officers, the Metropolitan Police Service said in an e-mailed statement today.
“It is mind boggling that the police even knew Rebekah Brooks might have wanted a horse,” said Mark Lewis, a lawyer for phone-hacking victims who says police previously worked with News Corp. to contain the phone-hacking scandal. “It isn’t that the relationship was too close, it was a long way past that.”
A judge-led inquiry triggered by News Corp.’s voice-mail interceptions is widening to examine the relationship between U.K. police and the press after a criminal probe in 2006 failed to uncover the extent of the practice. An inquiry lawyer, Robert Jay, said yesterday the public feared the relationship between the police and News International was “at best inappropriately close, and if not actually corrupt was very close to it.”
Brooks, who hasn’t been charged and is free on bail, edited the now-defunct News of the World tabloid, where the phone-hacking scandal started, and later edited News Corp.’s Sun daily newspaper, which is at the center of a bribery investigation. She has denied wrongdoing.
The loan from the police “is something good and charitable for the horse and also good for the foster parent, if you will, given the benefit of being able to ride,” David Wilson, Brooks’s spokesman, said today in a phone interview. “Her husband Charlie is a horse-racing trainer and she absolutely shares his love of horses.”
Brooks’s horse was one of 12 that were retired and given new homes in 2008, a police spokesman said. He didn’t say how the new homes are chosen. The horse was “re-housed” with the police in 2010, he said.
The News of the World’s royal reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were jailed in 2007 for accessing voice mails of members of the royal household. The company has since admitted the practice was more widespread and at least two top Met Police commanders resigned last year over claims officers ignored the scandal.
Wilson declined to comment on Brooks’s relationship with the police or why she received the horse on loan rather than someone else. Daisy Dunlop, a spokeswoman for News International, declined to comment.
News International’s lawyers released today new details about civil phone-hacking settlements with dozens of victims after a judge ruled they should be made public. As part of the accords, the company said five reporters other than Goodman were involved in the voice-mail interceptions. Police have arrested about 30 people in probes of phone hacking, computer hacking and bribery at the company.
The police officer in charge of the investigations yesterday told the inquiry, led by Judge Brian Leveson, that the Sun had a “culture” of corrupt payments to public officials and police. Ten current and former Sun journalists have been arrested in the bribery investigation.
The inquiry also heard testimony that police limited their investigation into phone-hacking in 2006, and tipped off Brooks about the status of the probe. The police held thousands of pages of unexamined evidence in storage until civil lawsuits by victims in 2010 forced them to review the documents.
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