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A week of action in the UK courts in the ongoing Phone hacking saga The first step was a procedural step in the ongoing criminal cases against the so far named journalists including Coulson and Brooks over the hacking of Millie Dowlers phone, along with up to six hundred others.  Due to the judge involved having other cases on the same day, it was re-located from Southwark crown court to Number one Court at the Old Bailey . Now this court room is normally only used for Major Murder trials, so there is a suggestion that this move was to impress on the defendants how seriously the case was being taken (The more paranoid however were suggesting that this was all show and by rattling the chains it might allow the establishment to go soft on the defendants at a later stage). There was a selection of complaints from people over a reported disagreement between a couple of the defendants over who got the chair used by the notorious murderer Dr Crippen, but really it’s understandable Gallows humour when exposed to that place.

After much deliberation, that under UK contempt of court laws we are not allowed to know if we weren’t inside the courtroom, and even if we did we would not be allowed to repeat to help guarantee a fair trial. It was announced that the provisional starting date for the actual court case is  at the beginning of September next year, due partly to the complexity of the case, and the number of involved defendants. It is not unlikely that this schedule will slip further. Defendants could be ill, extra evidence might turn up, extra people could be added to the case. There are two people for example  who the Crown prosecution service didn’t charge, but didn’t dismiss the case against, The police were sent to add further evidence before the case was reconsidered.  If they are charged, it might be more economical to add them back in to this case, to save Jurors from being prejudiced by earlier results, and to save witnesses from having to deliver their evidence twice. It is not inconceivable that it will drag out for another twelve months, Leaving the court case running over from the end of 2014 to 2015. If the defendants then don’t plead guilty we could have  details  of their contacts with Government ministers revealed as the election campaign slips into high gear. With Cameron having employed Coulson as his press secretary, This could be the worst possible situation for the Conservative party.

Then at the end of the week we had  a case management hearing for the next block of civil cases this is taking place over four days and finishes today.  Some interesting things have come up, It turns out that there has actually been very little disclosure  from News International

News International denies allegation regarding phone hacking and stories | UK news | guardian.co.uk

He said the litigants were almost solely relying on information provided by the Metropolitan police, which has been disclosing notes made by the private investigator used by the News of the World to hack phones.

Tomlinson added that this information was limited to a few pages of notes and some call data, with virtually no information from News Group Newspapers, the News International subsidiary that published the now-closed News of the World.

"In terms of News Group disclosures between 2001 and 2005 we have a total disclosure of 12 emails," he said.

Rose again objected to the suggestion that the publisher was withholding emails, saying in the early 2000s, when the News of the World phone hacking took place, email inboxes had less capacity and emails were not kept as a matter of routine.

The News International argument seems unlikely for a variety of reasons. Firstly,  as a journalist, past letters and emails are the building blocks from which Future stories are built. You may not be able to build a story from this email here and now, but six months or a year down the line, something may pop up to confirm the story. Throwing out your materials seems to be an outrageous risk for a journalist.
A second reason is the claims about email capacity. If you look at a modern email inbox, as a rule of thumb a Gigabyte of email contains roughly 25,000 emails, however if you go back a decade,  this was before the explosion in HTML based emails, when the majority came as simple text files, back then the average email inbox would fit 175,000 emails in a Gigabyte, so an average throughout the years of roughly 100,000.

Now we know from Sue Akers evidence before the House Home Affairs committee and Lord Justice Leveson that the Metropolitan police has in its possession 12 Terabytes of data. Now a proportion of this data must be email, as we know that part of the investigation must involve the attempted deletion of email backups as was reported last year. If we take that to be 5% of the data held and the staffing levels of the four papers to be roughly equal, then we should, from a quick back of an envelope calculation  have roughly 50,000 emails available for each member of staff. It is hard to justify the handing over just 12 emails from this digital mountain.

Another  claim made during this court case is that there is an email that claims that every single major story over a two year period were a result of phone hacking, News international of course disputes this. Now from reading about the earlier ”highly significant email” this appears to be a separate documentary source.

News International denies allegation regarding phone hacking and stories | UK news | guardian.co.uk

An allegation that all major stories in the News of the World over a two-year period were a result of phone hacking has been strongly challenged by News International at a high court hearing.

During a case management conference at the high court in London on Thursday, Hugh Tomlinson QC, counsel for more than 170 individuals seeking damages for alleged phone hacking, said an internal News International communication suggested this was the case.

This court hearing  continued today with apparently some quite  intense argument between  The judge and  News Internationals Lawyer, the judge apparently becoming annoyed with some of the claims that  were made and the Legal manoeuvring being deployed. Hopefully this section will be brought to a conclusion shortly.

And finally we have another Court case rumbling into action.  And this one looks fairly explosive for the police. Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn  has appeared  in the preliminary stages as the first person prosecuted  under Operation Elveden, the investigation into corruption.
 Operation Elveden: April Casburn appears in court | Media | guardian.co.uk

One of Scotland Yard's most senior counter-terrorism officers has appeared in court charged with misconduct in public office after allegedly offering to provide information to the News of the World.

Detective chief inspector April Casburn, who works in specialist operations at the Metropolitan police, is accused of contacting the now-defunct tabloid newspaper on 11 September, 2010.

It is alleged that Casburn "wilfully misconducted herself to such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public's trust in that office".

Casburn, 53, of Chelmsford, spoke only to confirm her name, address and date of birth as she appeared at Westminster magistrates court in central London on Monday.

It is alleged that when the police searched her house ,  that a pair of Classified documents marked Secret were found, and this has lead to a separate charge under the Official Secrets Act.

Now the Charges are related to information allegedly offered to the News of the World about Operation Varec, The investigation into phone hacking that was opened up after the New York Times published its  article on the subject.

Now Operation Varec was run by a figure who has appeared before in this story one John Yates, and Casburn was someone who reported to him.  Now although people were asked about Varec in the Leveson Inquiry, Kit Malthouse and Kier Starmer both answered questions and mentioned Yates in relation to Varec and Sean Hoare, the Journalist who died just before the Inquiry started, and who was one of the New York times sources. However when Yates was a witness he was asked nothing about this part of the story, which is interesting.

If we look from the other direction from Casburn out towards her newspaper contacts we are also in a strange situation. We have no report of  any  Journalists with parallel conspiracy charges, so how has this come about? You’d expect more than the allegations of a minor member of staff, so how High up the chain does this go? Firstly this dates from 2010, and so is from a time when neither Brooks or Coulson was editor, Could this be the Case that pulls Colin Myler into the frame?

As further evidence emerges in this particular case, we are bound to have a very interesting few days as things come out in court.

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