The lawyer for Charlie Brooks, Rebekah Brooks’s husband, said his client wasn’t “a clever man” and was incapable of planning an elaborate scheme to destroy evidence at the height of the phone-hacking scandal.
Charlie Brooks, 52, is accused along with his wife, the former head of News Corp. (NWSA:US)’s U.K. unit, of hiding a laptop computer that contained pornographic material in the hours after her arrest in July 2011. His lawyer, Neil Saunders, told jurors that his client simply couldn’t have pulled off the plot.
“The prosecution theory is based on a fairly complicated, carefully planned military-style operation involving many people embroiled in a web of deceit,” Saunders said in London today. “The defense suggests you use your common sense and you will conclude this is not a clever man, but a man under pressure who made a foolish decision.”
The Brookses are among seven people on trial for wrongdoing at News Corp.’s U.K. publications, including intercepting voice-mail messages and bribery. Prosecutors say the couple conspired with News Corp. employees to obstruct justice in the days after the scandal erupted in the wake of revelations that journalists at the News of the World tabloid hacked a missing teenager’s phone.
Saunders and a lawyer for former News Corp. security head Mark Hanna are making the final closing arguments in the seven-month-old trial today. Jurors may begin deliberations on June 9 after the judge spends the rest of the week summing up the case.
Saunders characterized Charlie Brooks as “impulsive” and said he’d made a “foolish error of judgment” when he left a briefcase with his laptop in the parking garage at their London apartment building in 2011. The lawyer said his client wasn’t very computer-literate and lacked technical skills to tamper with devices. His property didn’t contain any incriminating information about phone hacking, Saunders said.
Charlie Brooks’s actions, while unwise, “were not criminal,” Saunders said.
Rebekah Brooks expected she might be arrested in the hacking investigation when she returned from a trip to New York in mid-April 2011, Saunders said. She flew back early to avoid the “killer photograph” that tabloid photographers might take showing her being led away in handcuffs.
The couple thought “it was highly likely Rebekah would be searched and arrested while she was at Heathrow,” Saunders said.
When Charlie Brooks later told her what he’d done with his equipment in the parking garage, “she went ballistic,” he previously testified in the case.
“One of Mr. Brooks’s biggest concerns was that of the ’killer photograph,’ which now of course could be of him and not his wife,” Saunders said. “What a disaster.”
News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch closed the weekly News of the World in 2011 following the scandal.
To contact the reporter on this story: Anthony Aarons in London at email@example.com