21/05/2014

Brooks lawyer says 'no smoking gun' in hacking trial

Britain's phone-hacking trial has revealed "no smoking gun" against former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks, her lawyer said Tuesday as he made his closing speech.

Jonathan Laidlaw urged jurors at the Old Bailey court in London to ignore the media hype surrounding the case and "focus on the evidence" alone.

Brooks, a former protegee of Rupert Murdoch who rose to lead his British newspaper empire, denies four charges including conspiracy to hack phones.

Her lawyer said the trial, which began in October and involves six other co-defendants, had been described in the media as "the trial of the century". Galaxy Astatium cigarettes.

"Much nonsense, complete nonsense, has been spoken about these proceedings and awful things have been said about Rebekah Brooks herself over the last few years," he said.

But Laidlaw insisted that the 45-year-old sought no "special treatment", only that the jury be "fair-minded".

He said there was "no smoking gun" to suggest Brooks was guilty and the case against her was "circumstantial".

He said that phone hacking was "rare" during the time Brooks edited the News of the World tabloid between 2000 and 2003, with the evidence showing only one story published from the practice.

That was about missing teenager Milly Dowler in 2002, which was published when Brooks was on holiday in Dubai.

"Ask yourself the question -- can it be a coincidence that in her three years editing the News of the World there is not a single phone hacking story in a paper she edited?" Laislaw asked the jury.

The revelation that Dowler's phone was hacked sparked public outrage and led Murdoch to shut down the Sunday tabloid in July 2011.

Brooks was arrested shortly afterwards and subsequently quit her role as head of News International, now News UK, the British newspaper wing of Murdoch's US-based News Corp.

During the trial, prosecutors revealed an affair between Brooks and her deputy editor, Andy Coulson.

Coulson replaced Brooks as editor at the News of the World when she moved to edit its sister daily, The Sun. He is also on trial for hacking, which he denies.

The prosecution said the affair mattered because it suggested the couple were sharing confidences.

However, Brooks' lawyer noted that both she and Coulson were married at the time and said the reality of an extramarital affair was that it was "dysfunctional".

He said both sides might keep things private from each other, and Brooks was in no position to say how much her lover had shared with her.

‘Rise in tobacco licence fee will benefit criminals’

Plans for a 200-fold rise in the cost of the licence fee to sell tobacco could see many outlets choose not to offer the products and drive more people to the black market, it has been claimed.

The Irish Cigarette Machine Operators Association yesterday called its members to an EGM to discuss the proposed legislation which, it claimed, will severely impact the vending industry, which employs 145 people and is worth over €175m to the economy.

“We’re very concerned about several proposed Department of Health measures that have the potential to decimate our industry in a very short space of time,” said ICMOA spokesman Cormac Dunn.

He said the EGM was called in light of reports that the retail licence fee will be increased from a once-off €50 to €500 per outlet per year, in order to reach the Government’s target of €5m per year. He said the fee could rise to up to €1,000 if people withdrew from the industry, as the target will have to be achieved.

He said many venues, including large pubs, only make €400 to €500 a year from the vending machines in their premises and, if forced to pay such a large fee, many would simply stop selling tobacco. Parliament Reserve cigarettes.

“There are over 6,000 outlets across Ireland, serviced by ICMOA members, many of whom are one-man or small family operations,” he said. “ICMOA members mainly service bars, pubs, and hotels. These are mostly small operations in each outlet, which will not be economically viable should such a fee increase occur.

“The only people to gain if the industry suffers are the criminal gangs who will profit from sales of illegal tobacco products.”

The Vintners Federation of Ireland said the rise would be “yet another burden on publicans who have faced mounting costs over the last decade”, and vowed to strongly oppose any attempt to implement it.

Mr Dunne also criticised Government plans to introduce plain packaging for tobacco brands.

“The evidence from Australia is clear, the illicit trade is growing and criminals are benefiting,” said Mr Dunne. “According to a recent KPMG report, the illicit trade has grown by 20% in Australia in the year [2013] following the introduction of plain packaging.”

Australia’s tobacco law to be tested at WTO

An Australian law forcing cigarette companies to sell their products in plain packets is about to be tested in court, diplomats at the World Trade Organisation said yesterday, ending more than two years of procedural delay.

Cuba, Ukraine, Indonesia, Honduras and Dominican Republic have brought the action against Australia, the first country to ban the colourful logos used to sell tobacco brands around the world, a law aimed at reducing addiction and disease.

Opponents of the law, who say it is heavy-handed and an invitation to counterfeiters, had hoped other countries would hold off from following Australia’s example pending a WTO verdict, but Britain, Ireland and New Zealand have already begun drafting similar legislation.

Since late 2012, tobacco products in Australia can only be sold in drab olive-coloured packets that look more like military or prison issue, with brands printed in small standardised fonts. L&M Red Label cigarettes.

The five countries challenging it say the legislation is a barrier to trade and restricts intellectual property.

“My country fully shares Australia’s health objectives. However, its plain packaging measure is failing to have the desired health effects of reducing smoking prevalence and remains detrimental to our premium tobacco industry,” Katrina Naut, the Dominican Republic’s foreign trade chief, said in a statement. 

“By banning all design elements from tobacco packaging, plain packaging precludes our producers from differentiating their premium products from competitors in the marketplace.” 

After two years of slow-going procedure, Australia and its five challengers have agreed the conditions that will allow the case to get under way within weeks and for a ruling to be made potentially as soon as November.