UK & World News

  • 27 February 2014, 22:51

Rebekah Brooks Admits Paying Public Officials

Rebekah Brooks has admitted paying public officials for information during her time as a newspaper editor.

The former News International chief executive denied knowing the name of a source paid by the Sun for stories over eight years or that the source worked for the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

But Brooks, 45, told the hacking trial at the Old Bailey she approved payments on "a handful" of occasions between 1998 and 2009, when she edited the News of the World and later the Sun.

She answered "yes" when asked by her lawyer Jonathan Laidlaw QC if she ever sanctioned payments to public officials.

Pressed on how many times, she replied: "A handful of occasions - half a dozen."

She added: "My view at the time was that there had to be an overwhelming public interest to justify payments in the very narrow circumstances of a public official being paid for information directly in line with their jobs.

"Public interest - I and everyone else always finds this a very difficult subject to address because it's very subjective depending on what newspaper or media organisation you're in. Each newspaper has its own interpretation."

The court has previously heard claims that MoD press officer Bettina Jordan-Barber received a total of 100,000 for information she provided to The Sun.

Jurors were told a record of payments was found relating to 71 stories across categories such as deaths in action, injuries in action, alleged misconduct, and treatment of troops and their welfare.

She also told how her newspaper's coverage of boxer Frank Bruno's mental breakdown was a "terrible mistake".

She said she approved the tabloid's front page story, featuring the headline "Bonkers Bruno Locked Up", about the sports star's health problems in 2003.

She said she realised her "blind spot" when she returned home and was alerted by her then-husband Ross Kemp.

"I got home, put the proof down and Ross said 'What is that? What are you doing?' He had seen the front page and questioned how brutal it was," she said.

"It was a terrible mistake I made."

She said the headline was changed but featured in 15,000 of the Sun's four million copies that day.

Brooks, who denies conspiring to hack phones, conspiring to commit misconduct in public office and conspiring to cover up evidence to pervert the course of justice, was in the witness box on Thursday for her fifth day of evidence.

:: Watch Sky News live on television, on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.