1. ITV Report

Tony Blair 'advised Rebekah Brooks on shielding Murdochs' during hacking scandal

The former prime minister Tony Blair with the former NoTW editor Rebekah Brooks. Photo: Fiona Hanson/PA Wire

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair advised Rebekah Brooks how to shield James Murdoch from the fallout of the phone-hacking scandal, the Old Bailey heard today.

In an email exchange between Brooks and Murdoch, Ms Brooks described how Mr Blair acted as an unofficial adviser as the scandal started to emerge, and said she should launch an independent investigation and publish a “Hutton Style report” that would “clear” James Murdoch of any wrongdoing.

The email from Ms Brooks to James Murdoch, seen in court. Credit: CPS

The former prime minister also allegedly advised taking sleeping pills during an hour-long conversation with Brooks in July 2011, the hacking trial was told.

According to Brooks, Mr Blair, advised "no rash short-term solutions as they only give you long-term headaches." He also told her to "keep strong" and have a "clear head" in dealing with the fallout of the scandal, the Old Bailey heard.

The email suggests Mr Blair advised that the criminal investigation into activities at the newspaper would “pass” and they should “tough up”.

The email also said Mr Blair would send more detailed advice himself, at a later time.

Tony Blair's office admitted the conversation took place, but said it was simply "informal" advice to ensure a credible inquiry.

This was Mr Blair simply giving informal advice over the phone.

He made it absolutely clear to Ms Brooks that, though he knew nothing personally about the facts of the case, in a situation as serious as this it was essential to have a fully transparent and independent process to get to the bottom of what had happened.

Mr Blair said that if what he was being told by her was correct, and there had been no wrongdoing, then a finding to that effect by a credible Inquiry would be far better than an internal and therefore less credible investigation.

A second email exchange between Rebekah Brooks and Mr Murdoch called "Plan B" in which Ms Brooks laid out her intention to keep her job was heard at the Old Bailey phone-hacking trial today.

In it, Ms Brooks suggested former News International chairman Les Hinton and the then editor, Colin Myler, could become scapegoats.

The second email exchange, 'Plan B' heard in the Old Bailey today. Credit: CPS

Brooks added: ‘I am ring fenced clearly and properly. It will be written as a slippery slope for me but I hardly have a reputation left.’

She then went on to outline ideas she had for launching the new Sun on Sunday.

Brooks is on trial accused of phone hacking at the News of the World, corruption at The Sun, and perverting the course of justice in July 2011. She denies the charges.

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