Blair ‘advised editor Hutton-style probe would clear her of hacking’

Tony Blair with former News International Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks
Tony Blair with former News International Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks
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FORMER Prime Minister Tony Blair offered to act as an “unofficial adviser” to newspaper executive Rebekah Brooks when she sought his guidance at the height of the phone-hacking crisis at the News of the World, prosecutors told the Old Bailey yesterday.

Mr Blair also allegedly advised taking sleeping pills during an hour-long conversation with Brooks in July 2011 – a summary of which Brooks sent to boss James Murdoch in an email. The email suggested Mr Blair told Brooks: “It will pass. Tough up.”

According to Brooks, Mr Blair, who stood down after a decade as Prime Minister in 2007, advised “no rash short-term solutions as they only give you long-term headaches”.

Instead, the former News of the World (NotW) and Sun editor told Mr Murdoch that Mr Blair suggested holding an independent “Hutton-style” inquiry which would report back and clear their names in due course.

The mention of a “Hutton-style inquiry” was not explained in court, but it is likely to be a reference to Lord Hutton’s investigation into the death of government scientist David Kelly.

In the same email chain sent the day after the final edition of the NotW was published, Brooks relayed to Mr Murdoch the news that circulation figures for the Sunday tabloid were still close to four million, saying: “So much for a sales boycott.”

The allegations emerged yesterday in the final day of evidence from the prosecution in the case of seven people facing charges relating to the phone hacking affair.

Details of a second email shown to the jury included suggestions from Brooks to Mr Murdoch over the strategy the company could follow in the wake of the closure of the News of the World. “Lots of plans and thoughts” it said.

All the defendants in the phone-hacking trial – including Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire – deny all the charges.

Blair acted as ‘adviser’: Page 6.