'I sanctioned payments to officials,' says ex-Murdoch editor Brooks

LONDON (REUTERS) - Rebekah Brooks, Rupert Murdoch's former British newspaper boss, told a London court on Thursday she had sanctioned payments to public officials but denied authorising illegal sums for which she is on trial.

Brooks is accused of authorising almost 40,000 pounds (s$84,400) in illegal payments from a reporter on Mr Murdoch's Sun tabloid to a Ministry of Defence official while she was editor of the paper.

She denies the charge, and other offences of conspiracy to hack phones and perverting the course of justice.

Asked by her defence lawyer on Thursday if she had ever sanctioned payments to public officials, something which is illegal, Brooks replied: "Yes, probably since I was deputy editor of the Sun ... a handful of occasions, half a dozen."

Her lawyer Jonathan Laidlaw said he would return to the issue later to give further explanation.

Earlier, Brooks had said her view was that "there had to be an overwhelming public interest to justify payment" and only in "very narrow circumstances."

Giving evidence for a fifth day, Brooks was asked about the specific charge relating to authorising illegal payments. She had said she did not know who the reporter's source was for a number of stories about Britain's military nor that the source was a public official.

Asked if the journalist should have raised this with her, she told London's Old Bailey court: "He probably should have brought it to my attention, absolutely."


Earlier Brooks, who edited Mr Murdoch's News of the World and Sun tabloids from 2000 to 2009, told her trial that she had made lots of errors and regretted some stories and headlines, saying some were cruel, harsh and "just wrong".

"I personally made lots of mistakes", said the 45-year-old, who was the boss of News Corp's British paper arm until 2011.

The jury were shown a series of newspaper stories from the Sun, Britain's biggest-selling daily, where Brooks said the "speed of decisions" at the helm had led to lapses in judgement.

The first concerned former British heavyweight boxer Frank Bruno and the headline above a story about him which read "Bonkers Bruno locked up".

"This day I had been involved in many, many meetings," she said. "It was a terrible mistake I made."

She said she had immediately had the headline changed after her ex-husband had pointed it out to her when she got home.

Another incident where she had "gone too far" was a personal attack on former Labour minister Clare Short over her opposition to daily pictures of topless models on page three of the Sun, a traditional feature of the paper since 1970.

The Sun responded to Short by publishing a doctored photograph of her bare-breasted, accused her of being "jealous", and parked a busload of models outside her house.

Brooks said this had been "cruel" and "harsh".

"It was just too personal, it was just wrong," she added.

Earlier she told the court she had been brought to the Sun from the News of the World Sunday tabloid, because of her zeal for campaigning.

"Mr Murdoch had been quite pleased with the campaigning tone of the News of the World and wanted to take that to the Sun," she said.

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