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Jurors in phone hacking trial urged to ignore -

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TONY EASTLEY: British jurors in the high-profile phone hacking trial at the Old Bailey has been warned to steer clear of the internet so they can reach verdicts only on the basis only of what is said in court.

The judge also gave the nine women and three men strict instructions to ignore the latest edition of the satirical magazine Private Eye, which features former News International executive Rebekah Brooks on the front cover.

Europe correspondent Mary Gearin reports.

MARY GEARIN: On the very day jurors would be empanelled at the Old Bailey, around the corner at a news stand came the newest issue of satirical magazine Private Eye. Its cover features former News International executive Rebekah Brook and it reads, "Halloween Edition: Horror Witch Costume Withdrawn From Shops".

Inside the court, Justice John Saunders raised the matter of the magazine with the jurors. The judge instructed the panel of nine women and three men to ignore the magazine, that it's meant to be satirical, he said, but it's not relevant to the jury's considerations, and is in especially bad taste.

Reports emerged plain clothes police ordered newsagents to stop selling the issue because it could constitute contempt of court. Officially all police will confirm is they made inquiries with a vendor about the magazine to assist the court and warned of the legal issues.

The judge also warned jurors not to look up the case in newspapers or online, including the use of Google, Twitter or Facebook. He says material on the web is often fuelled by speculation and could be offensive or demeaning to the defendants.

He asked the jurors to consider whether it was wise they continue using social media during the trial in case they came upon discussion about the case. He said a failure to ignore such material could leave them in contempt of court themselves and facing prison.

Given what he called the unprecedented volume of pre-trial publicity, the judge said it was not just the defendants but British justice on trial.

The defendants themselves stood while their charges were read to the jury, including Brooks and former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, both accused of phone hacking. Brooks also faces charges relating to alleged illegal payments to public officials and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by concealing evidence.

Former Downing Street communications chief Coulson is also facing charges of conspiring with others to commit misconduct in public office. All eight defendants deny the charges.

The prosecution is expected to open its case in the next day.

This is Mary Gearin in London for AM.