The trial of a group of former journalists and editors who ran the weekly tabloid News of the World entered a crucial phase on day two with the crown prosecution team presenting its case to a jury of nine women and three men in Court 12 of the Old Bailey in London.
On trial are Rebekah Brooks, former editor of the now-closed tabloid, her husband Charles Brooks, and six of her former associates, including Andy Coulson, who took over from Ms. Brooks as editor of NOTW in 2003, and who, four months after he quit as a result of a hacking controversy involving the royals, was appointed media adviser in May 2005 by Prime Minister David Cameron.
The prosecution team led by Andrew Edis QC told the jury that both Ms. Brooks and Mr. Coulson, “the people in charge of the purse strings” at the NOTW, knew about voicemail interception, a “pervasive” practice in their newsroom; were guilty of making payoffs to officials in return for information and, in Ms. Brook’s case, of destroying evidence.
Seeking to establish that the eight, who have all pleaded innocent of the charges, were fully aware of newsroom malpractice, Mr. Edis disclosed for the first time that three former NOTW editors had already pleaded guilty to voice mail interception before Scotland Yard’s ‘Operation Weeting’ investigation into the conspiracy.
They are Greg Miskiw, Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup.
Therefore, he said, the efforts by the defendants to pin the offence of phone hacking onto Clive Goodman, the paper’s royal correspondent, who was jailed in 2007 along with Glenn Mulcaire, a phone hacking specialist, was misleading and wrong.
Mr. Edis asked the jury to establish the fact of who exercised editorial oversight: “If there was phone hacking – who knew?”
“News of the World is a Sunday paper,” he said. “That means it was published once a week, 52 times of the year. It wasn’t War and Peace. 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.”
The prosecution told the court that apart from Ms. Brooks and Mr. Coulson, the tabloid’s former news editor, Ian Edmonson, and the former managing editor, Stuart Kuttner, were also charged with conspiracy to intercept messages.
Mr. Goodman and Mr. Coulson, the court was told, “agreed that News of the World would pay a palace police officer a sum of money in return for a royal telephone directory which contained telephone numbers of members of the Royal Household.” Mr. Edis said the agreement was set out in email correspondence; later 15 royal phone directories were seized from Mr. Coulson’s house.
Mr. Edis said Ms. Brooks concealed evidence by getting her personal assistant Cheryl Carter (one of the eight who have been charged) to remove all her journalistic notebooks from the newspaper archive. Further, she and her husband also removed incriminating material from her homes in Oxfordshire and London.
“Quite a complicated little operation was set up in order to prevent the police finding all the computers, all the phones, all the iPads, all the documents that they would have wanted to consider,” Mr. Edis told the court.
The packed public and press galleries in Court 12 is evidence of the enormous interest the trial has generated.
For the first time, filming has been allowed at the Court of Appeal, a partial lifting of the long-standing ban in the U.K. on cameras in court.