EXCLUSIVE: Murdoch’s top newspaper boss Rebekah Brooks tried to keep her own hacking scandal story a secret

  • REBEKAH BROOKS tried to stop allegations of illegality in mobile phone snooping case becoming public
  • SHE CLAIMED she was trying to protect the privacy of her former fianceé Ross Kemp after her private investigator caught him cheating on her with a page three girl
  • BUT JUDGE rejects bid as there is no evidence that Ross Kemp cares
  • THE APPLICATION would have kept her role “out of the public gaze”
  • THE NEWS UK CEO cited the same privacy rights that her papers the sun and the times have attacked
  • AS THE editor of The Sun and the news of the world her reporters ran roughshod over any suggestions of privacy
  • CRITICS CLAIM that Ms Brooks has betrayed the free speech and open justice right of reporters to cover court proceedings

By Graham Johnson

Editor, Byline Investigates

RUPERT Murdoch’s Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks tried to suppress allegations of illegality against her, Byline Investigates can reveal.

Last month, we revealed how Ms Brooks is being sued personally for allegedly tasking a private investigator to illegally acquire private information about TV star Ross Kemp.

A woman, whom Ms Brooks suspected of seeing Mr Kemp, was also targeted.

Both probes were allegedly unlawful, but Ms Brooks is also accused of getting her company to pick up a five figure bill for inquiries made on a personal matter.

The High Court case is important because the allegations run contrary to previous statements the controversial Sun newspaper boss has made about ‘blagging’ private information unlawfully – sometimes under oath.

However, we can now reveal that Ms Brooks had tried to keep the details of the case out of the public eye.

Royal Courts of Justice  (inset The Rolls building where Ms May’s legal action has been filed)
Royal Courts of Justice (inset The Rolls building where Ms May’s legal action has been filed)

On February 13 this year, Ms Brooks applied to Britain’s top privacy judge Mr Justice Mann to keep legal documents that mention her and Mr Kemp away ‘from the public gaze’.

She argued that if the case summary – known in legal jargon as ‘Particulars of Claim’ – became public, then it would intrude on the privacy of her ex-partner Mr Kemp, who is described as a ‘third party’ in the paperwork.

The effect of her bid would have been to prevent the allegations against her coming to light – and to stop Byline Investigates, or any other news organ, from reporting them.

Six days later, Justice Mann wrote: “The order sought is one preserving the Particulars of Claim from the public gaze on the footing that it might affect the interests of a third party and that third party might seek such an order in order to preserve his confidentiality.”

The documents are potentially embarrassing for Ms Brooks and Mr Kemp, because they claim the TV actor and presenter had an affair, while engaged to be married to Ms Brooks.

Ironically, Mr Kemp’s other alleged lover was a Page Three girl called Jamelah Asmah, who made a living at the time by posing topless in the tabloid papers Ms Brooks was editing.

Rebekah Brooks, who has been dragged into a court case that suggests she lied under oath during her 2014 Old Bailey criminal trial.
Rebekah Brooks, who has been dragged into a court case that suggests she lied under oath during her 2014 Old Bailey criminal trial.

Ms Asmah (now Jamelah May) is claiming Ms Brooks suspected Kemp, and then allegedly tasked Steve Whittamore – who was her paper’s top illegal Private Investigator – to find out who he was in touch with on his mobile phone.

Mr Whittamore then allegedly obtained the itemised mobile bills of Mr Kemp and to identify who owned the phone numbers dialled, and then do further illicit digging on any woman found.

Ms May is now suing Brooks personally for invasion of privacy.

However, Mr Justice Mann rejected Ms Brooks’ application to keep the documents under wraps, dismissing it in robust terms.

In his order handed down on February 19th 2020, the Hon. Justice Mann wrote: “I considered that it would be wrong to make the order.

”The order is, of course, one which contravenes the principles of open justice. Accordingly it is not one that the court will make merely because the parties consent to it.

”The court must be satisfied that the principles of open justice should be overridden in this particular case. On the evidence in this matter there is insufficient material to justify that course, even in the short term.”

The reference to not overriding the principles of open justice is ironically familiar to Ms Brooks.

Her newspapers can often be found in court arguing in favour of the right to report proceedings freely.

And when prevented from doing so, they have vigorously opposed the sort of application that Ms Brooks was herself making.

Ms Brooks had argued that a ‘non-party’ (meaning Mr Kemp) has ‘potential’ rights that ‘might be adversely affected’ by the Particulars of Claim being made available in their current form.

According to Justice Mann’s order, Ms Brooks had implied in her legal arguments that Mr Kemp might make a separate application in his own name in a bid to protect his confidentiality.

However, Justice Mann was dismissive, stating that no such application had been forthcoming.

He continued: “There is absolutely no evidence that the third party has the slightest interest in making such an application.

”Since the Defendant (Ms Brooks) seems concerned to protect the interests of the third party it is a fair assumption (which I make) that she has told him already of the allegations made about him…

”There is simply insufficient material to justify the significant derogation from the principles of open justice that the application seeks.”

L-R: Kemp, May, Brooks
L-R: Kemp, May, Brooks

Her attempt to get the court claims heard behind closed doors has been lambasted experienced court reporters and press reformers.

Campaign Organisation Hacked Off said it was the latest move in a long-running cover-up of criminal allegations by Brooks and her associates.

A spokesperson said: “The hypocrisy of Rebekah Brooks, and other newspaper executives, knows no bounds.

”Having spent careers destroying the lives of ordinary people, with relentless and intrusive coverage in the pages of their newspapers, they are swift to plead privacy when they are accused of wrongdoing. 
”What is worse, is that a senior High Court judge has confirmed, on this occasion, that there is no reasonable basis for keeping these details confidential.  

”The position of Ms Brooks and The Sun is that they desire court secrecy for serious allegations of criminality against themselves and their newspaper employees – but full public exposure for the innocuous, personal lives of everyone else.”

More follows in the next part of this story about Ms Brooks’ previous attempts to allegedly cover-up her knowledge of phone hacking and illegal private investigators.

More articles filed under Jamelah May

Chasing Murdoch’s truth – How Rebekah Brooks changed her sworn evidence to Parliament and a public inquiry

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Anatomy of a ‘cover up’ – Breaking down Rebekah Brooks’ ‘phone hacking’ alibis

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Murdoch CEO Brooks’ seven different alibis over illegal private investigators

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