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Former News of the World national newspaper editor Rebekah Brooks, accompanied by her husband Charlie Brooks, left, leaves the Central Criminal Court in London, Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)
Former News of the World national newspaper editor Rebekah Brooks, accompanied by her husband Charlie Brooks, left, leaves the Central Criminal Court in London, Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

Britain’s phone hacking trial: the accused, the lawyers and the prime ministers Add to ...

It is one of the biggest trials to take place in Britain for years and promises to raise tricky questions about how the British press operate. On trial are a group of former staffers of the now defunct News of the World tabloid including former editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson. Ms. Brooks also headed the British newspaper operations for Rupert Murdoch’s News International, making her one of the most powerful women in the media.

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THE ACCUSED

Rebekah Brooks: She started as a secretary at News of the World in 1989 and worked her way up, becoming editor of the paper in 2000 at the age of 32. Extremely well connected, she told a public inquiry into the phone hacking scandal that she exchanged text messages with Prime Minister David Cameron who often ended his messages with “LOL”. “Occasionally, he would sign them off, LOL-’Lots of love,’” she told the inquiry,"until I told him it meant ‘laugh out loud.’ ”

Andy Coulson: Started his journalism career at the age of 18 at the Basildon Evening Echo, before making his way to the Daily Mail, the Sun and eventually the News of the World. He succeeded Ms. Brooks as editor in 2003 and stayed until 2007 when he left to work for Mr. Cameron who became Prime Minister in 2010.

Clive Goodman: Former royal editor at News of the World he has already been jailed for hacking into voicemail messages at Buckingham Palace. His cover was blown when Prince William became suspicious about a story in the paper involving a knee injury he’d suffered but had only told a few people. That prompted royal officials to call the police.

Charlie Brooks: A millionaire race horse trainer and Ms. Brooks’ second husband. Mr. Brooks attended Eton with Mr. Cameron. Mr. Brooks has lent horses to the Prime Minister who wrote in a text to Ms. Brooks: “The horse CB put me on – fast unpredictable and hard to control – but fun.” Mr. Brooks faces charges of allegedly perverting the course of justice by concealing documents, computers and other equipment from police.

Stuart Kuttner: Managing editor of News of the World for more than 20 years and the public face of the paper. He constantly defended the tabloid against allegations of phone hacking, telling the BBC in 2008 that illegally tapping into voice mails had “happened once at the News of the World. The reporter was fired; he went to prison. The editor resigned.”

Ian Edmondson: Former news editor of News of the World, he worked closely with Mr. Coulson when he was editor. Mr. Edmondson told a public inquiry into the phone hacking scandal that the paper had a “culture of bullying”.

Cheryl Carter: Long-time assistant to Ms. Brooks and now runs a cosmetics business. She faces allegations of destroying e-mails.

Mark Hanna: Former director of security at News International. He also faces charges of perverting the course of justice by concealing documents, computers and other electronic equipment.

THE LAWYERS

The Crown case is led by Andrew Edis, ranked by British legal magazine Chambers and Partners as “crime silk of the year” in 2013 and considered “a true heavyweight and a genuine star”. Ms. Brooks is represented by Jonathan Laidlaw, another top ranked lawyer who specializes in white collar crime and terrorism cases.

THE PRIME MINISTERS

Tony Blair: Rebekah Brooks first met Mr. Blair in 1995, shortly after he became leader of the Labour Party. She met with him regularly, professionally and socially, during his 13 years as Prime Minister. Mr. Blair, his cabinet and advisers “were a constant presence in my life for many years,” she told a public inquiry into the newspaper business. During her time as editor of the Sun and News of the World, both papers endorsed Mr. Blair and Labour.

Gordon Brown: Ms. Brooks developed close ties to Mr. Brown and in particular his wife, Sarah. During the internal party feuding between Mr. Blair and Mr. Brown, Mr. Brown became hostile to the Sun for backing Mr. Blair. Despite the tension, Ms. Brooks kept up her relationship with Ms. Brown. Sarah Brown even invited Ms. Brooks to the Prime Minister’s country house of Chequers to celebrate her 40th birthday.

David Cameron: By 2009 the Sun had begun backing Conservative Party leader David Cameron. After he became Prime Minister contact between the two increased and included regular working breakfasts, lunches, receptions, dinners and News Corp. summer parties. Ms. Brooks’s husband Charles has also been a close friend of Mr. Cameron for years.

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