30/10/2013 11:47 GMT | Updated 30/10/2013 13:15 GMT

Phone Hacking Trial Of Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson Hears 'They Were Part Of Conspiracy'

Phone hacking took place at the News of the World, with the full knowledge of the people who "held the purse-strings", jurors in the trial of former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and ex-spin doctor Andy Coulson were told.

Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC told the Old Bailey that the News Of The World "was not War and Peace" and it was simple for the editor to read it all, and know what it contained.

"Were they asked as part of the conspiracy, given that they were so senior at the paper? They wanted it to happen because they were in charge of the purse-strings... So you may say that if they didn't stop it, they were part of the conspiracy to carry on," he said.

Rebekah Brooks, former News International chief executive, arrives for the phone-hacking trial at the Old Bailey in London

He told the jury it was "quite a simple issue": "There was phone hacking - who knew?"


"The prosecution says that it is important in a free country that there is a free press," he continued.

"But the prosecution says that journalists are no more entitled to break the criminal law than anybody else.

"There is no justification at all for journalists to get involved in phone hacking. That is an intrusion into people's privacy which is against the law.

"The prosecution says also that it is not right for newspapers to corrupt public officials by paying money so that they break their trust. Not the same as a conscientious whistleblower, where different considerations may perhaps apply.

"We say: where there is payment, it is always a crime, and everybody should know that."

Edis said that during the relevant period, Mulcaire was paid a retainer of around £100,000 a year by the NotW, described by the prosecutor as an "extraordinary arrangement" which must have required high level approval.

The court heard that both Mulcaire and Goodman pleaded guilty to phone hacking after the original investigation in 2006, but it was suggested that hacking was limited to "single rogue reporter" Goodman.

He said: "News International was keen to say that phone hacking in the NotW was really limited to Mr Goodman.

"But this inquiry has proved conclusively that that is not true.

"Obviously it has, because it has secured the convictions of Greg Miskiw, Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup.

"So it cannot at all be ever suggested now by anybody that phone hacking at the NotW was restricted to Mr Clive Goodman."

The court heard that News International had publicly admitted that, and issued a statement including an unreserved apology to people in cases meeting certain criteria.

The prosecution claims that former News of the World editors Brooks and Coulson, and ex-managing editor Kuttner, must have known that phone hacking was taking place.

Mr Edis said: "The News of the World is a Sunday paper. That means it published once a week, 52 times a year. It wasn't War And Peace. It wasn't an enormous document. It was the sort of document that if you were its editor you could actually take an interest in its content without too much trouble.

"What you are going to have to consider is whether these people were doing their jobs properly, in which case we say they must have known what they were spending the money on.

"They must have known, we say, where these stories came from, otherwise they would never have got into the paper."

Edis explained to the jury of nine women and three men that the case involves three types of allegations arising from an investigation that revealed that the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler was hacked and led to the closure of the News of the World.

Explaining the background of the case, he said: "It has arisen out of an investigation which started in January 2011 into phone hacking at the News of the World. That investigation, as you will learn, uncovered things which are now alleged against various people and which you will have to decide.

"The investigation and discoveries resulted, as you know, in the closure of the News of the World.

"If you remember, that came about because of the discovery that the phone of a young murdered girl, Milly Dowler, had been hacked by somebody acting on behalf of the News of the World.

"These events were very big news at the time and some events have been big news since."

"It wasn't a secret that there was an investigation going on and by July of 2011, when the Milly Dowler allegation was being made, there was a great storm of publicity."

The court heard that charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice related to "quite a complicated little operation" to hide material from police who were investigating phone hacking.

He said it is alleged that Brooks tasked Carter with removing her notebooks from the News International archive on the Friday before the News of the World was published for the last time.

"The prosecution say that they have disappeared," he said. "And the police would have wanted to know what was in those notebooks."

It is alleged that Brooks, along with her former personal assistant Cheryl Carter, conspired to pervert the course of justice by removing seven boxes of material from the News International archive, and that Brooks, with her husband Charles Brooks and former head of security at News International Mark Hanna, committed the same offence by allegedly trying to obstruct the police.

Brooks and Coulson are both accused of conspiracy to intercept communications in the course of their transmission.

They allegedly conspired with former News of the World head of news Edmondson, the tabloid's ex-managing editor Stuart Kuttner and others to illegally access voicemails between October 3 2000 and August 9 2006.

Ex-NotW and Sun editor Brooks is also charged with two counts of conspiring with others to commit misconduct in public office - one between January 1 2004 and January 31 2012 and the other between February 9 2006 and October 16 2008 - linked to alleged inappropriate payments to public officials.

She faces another two allegations of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice - one with her former personal assistant Carter, 49, from Chelmsford in Essex, between July 6 and 9 2011.

It is alleged that they conspired to remove seven boxes of material from the News International archive.

The second count alleges that Brooks, her husband Charles Brooks and former head of security at News International Hanna conspired together and with others between July 15 and July 19 2011 to pervert the course of justice.

It is claimed that they tried to conceal documents, computers and other electronic equipment from police officers who were investigating allegations of phone hacking and corruption of public officials in relation to the News of the World and The Sun newspapers.

Former No 10 spin doctor and ex-NotW editor Coulson is also facing two allegations that he conspired with the tabloid's former royal editor Goodman and persons unknown to commit misconduct in public office - one between August 31 2002 and January 31 2003, and the other between January 31 and June 3 2005.

Edis told the court that when police searched Goodman's house, they found 15 directories containing phone numbers for the royal family, two of which covered the time period in the allegations.

He said: "The prosecution say that at a newspaper where there is a great deal of phone hacking going on, and which is intensely interested in the Royal Family, the acquisition of phone books with phone numbers is something of obvious significance because it would be very useful, wouldn't it, in doing some phone hacking."

It is also alleged that Rebekah Brooks authorised payments of £40,000 to a Ministry of Defence official for information, jurors were told.