The phone-hacking trial of Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson, and five others, at the Old Bailey in London, was billed as the trial of the century. It was never going to live up to such excitable claims and for many of the reporters and broadcasters covering the legal wrangling, it came to seem more of an endurance test than a thrilling joust. Between the sensational revelations were hours of legalistic longueurs.
But one man documented every detail and in the process reinvented court reporting and established a possible new way of funding journalism.
Author and screenwriter Peter Jukes began blogging during Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. It is fair to say he later became consumed by the scandal over the so-called ‘dark arts’ of tabloid journalism in the UK.
He was initially dubious about asking complete strangers to fund him to sit in court every day after day tweeting the progress of the trial, yet that is exactly what they did. Using a crowdfunding website he raised £4,000 to keep him at the trial until the end of last year, followed by a further £14,000 which allowed him to carry on until the verdicts, and sentences, were delivered this summer.
Last night, in a unseasonably warm venue in south London, he launched his account of the trial in a more traditional format – a paperback book. Beyond Contempt is published by Canbury Press, founded by journalist Martin Hickman who co-wrote Dial M for Murdoch, another account of the criminal behaviour at News International.
“I am very proud to be the publisher of this book,” Hickman told the 100-plus crowd at the Mernier Gallery. “When Peter told me about his the idea I thought he’d be gone a few days. But he is a dramatist and this trial was full of drama. There were 21 barristers in the court – it was the most bewigged trial I have ever seen.”
Peter Jukes paid tribute to Guardian journalist Nick Davies whose lonely and obstinate investigative journalism chipped away News International’s denials until the truth emerged.
Davies could not attend the launch as he was giving a lecture in Verona (a reporter’s life is not always spent meeting shady characters in waterfront locations).
Jukes said his book is dedicated to Alastair Morgan whose brother, Daniel, was murdered in south east London in 1987. Campaigners claim that police corruption prevented the case being solved despite six separate investigations.
Jukes said: “This was the cradle where the dark arts were born. Alastair has been fighting for justice for 27 years.”