The hacking trial of Murdoch’s former “News of the World” editor and others has transfixed much of the UK, with star defendant and former Murdoch supremo Rebekah Brooks replacing her former senior lawyer, John Kelsey-Fry QC with another silk, Jonathan Laidlaw QC.
The news came in recent days with restrictions lifted that had quashed reporting of a split with a senior member of her legal team.
The Lawyer reported that Mr Justice Saunders issued a reporting black-out on the departure of Kelsey-Fry from the Brooks team, ruling that under the Contempt of Court Act 1981 the order was necessary “for avoiding a substantial risk of prejudice to the administration of justice”.
The order ruled that there should be “no tweeting, or blogging, or broadcast, or publication or making of any report of the fact that Mr John Kelsey-Fry QC had until very recently, acted for Rebekah Brooks”. It is understood that Laidlaw did not pursue an application for the gagging order to be extended.
Former News International chief executive Brooks and David Cameron’s ex-communications chief, Andy Coulson, face hacking charges connected to the now defunct News of the World (NoW).
They are in the dock with six others facing a range of charges connected to the scandal, which caused the NoW to fold two years ago. Commentators suggest the proceedings could be one of the longest criminal trials in recent years.
The charges levelled at Brooks include conspiracy to intercept voicemails, conspiracy to cause misconduct in public office and perversion of the course of justice. All the defendants deny the charges.
It is understood that Laidlaw replaced Kelsey-Fry as her counsel two months ago, with London white-collar crime specialist law firm Kingsley Napley continuing as instructing solicitors, although partner Angus McBride is leading instead of Stephen Parkinson.
Andrew Edis QC – also of 2 Hare Court – is leading the Crown’s case, while chambers-mate Sally Bennet Jenkins QC is leading 2 Bedford Row’s Christine Agnew for former NoW news head Ian Edmondson, instructed by Bark & Co Giles Bark-Jones.
Coulson also faces charges of conspiracy to hack phones and is advised by DLA Piper partner Jo Rickards. Rickards has also reshuffled her counsel, with Cloth Fair’s Tim Langdale now acting in place of Matrix Chambers’ Claire Montgomery QC.
NoW managing editor Stuart Kuttner, former news editor Greg Miskiw, former reporter James Weatherup and former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck also face charges as well as Brooks’ head of security Mark Hanna and former NoW royal correspondent Clive Goodman. Brooks’s former personal assistant Cheryl Carter is also faces one charge of conspiring to pervert the course of justice as well as Rebekah Brooks’ husband, Charlie, and ex-chauffeur Paul Edwards.