Recent evidence in the ongoing News of the World’s phone-hacking case has revealed that Tony Blair secretly advised Rebekah Brooks to consider facing an independent inquiry headed by Ken MacDonald, QC, the current Warden of Wadham College.
A July 2011 e-mail from Brooks, then Chief Executive of News International, to James Murdoch alleges that Blair offered her advice for salvaging her reputation as the News of the World phone-hacking scandal emerged.
As part of her work for the Murdoch-owned News Corporation, Brooks was the 2003-2009 editor of The Sun, which publicly supported Blair during three general elections. She is understood to have been good friends with Blair.
According to Brooks, the former prime minister suggested she set up an inquiry to publish a “Hutton-style report” that would “clear you and accept shortcomings”. Blair went on to suggest Ken MacDonald as “a great and good type” who might be a candidate for the head of this inquiry.
At the time the e-mail was sent, Ken MacDonald had recently returned to private legal practice after retiring his post as Director of Public Prosecutions.
Later that July, MacDonald revealed “evidence of serious criminal offences” committed by News International whilst representing the Murdoch corporation in a trial regarding allegations that News of the World made inappropriate payments to Metropolitan Police offcers.
MacDonald’s 2003-2008 term as DPP was initially controversial, given that he had been colleagues with Cherie Blair at Matrix Chambers. At the time of his appointment. Michael Howard labelled him a “crony” of the Blairs.
During his time as DPP, MacDonald notably defended the rights of terrorism cases in the UK, opposing proposed extensions to detainment times and rejecting evidence obtained by torture.
MacDonald became Warden of Wadham College in September 2012. Both he and the College were unavailable for comment regarding his being linked to Blair in the new phone-hacking trial evidence.
The News of the World phone-hacking trial has been an explosive focal point for national discussion of privacy and surveillance since July 2011, when it was revealed the Sunday tabloid had accessed the voicemails of a murdered teenager, deceased British soldiers, and victims of the 7/7 bombings.
The subsequent 2012 Leveson Inquiry report confirmed News International’s extensive phone-hacking and recommended significant changes to British press culture.
Currently, seven people connected to News International are on trial at the Old Bailey, including Rebekah Brooks and David Cameron’s former Director of Communications Andy Coulson.
On Thursday, Rebekah Brooks was acquited of one of five charges against her.