Court hears of 'complex operation' to conceal evidence as Thurlbeck, Miskiw and Weatherup admit hacking

Phone-hacking started while Rebekah Brooks was editor of the News of the World and continued under Andy Coulson, jurors in the trial of former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and ex-spin doctor Andy Coulson were told today.

Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC told the Old Bailey today that the prosecution would show that hacking went on at the now-defunct tabloid, and jurors would have to decide exactly who knew about it.

Opening the case, Edis said: "We say we will be able to show that there was phone-hacking at the News of the World. That Glenn Mulcaire did it. That Clive Goodman did it. And that Ian Edmonson did it.

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

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."

He said the three types of allegations included, first, claims of phone-hacking at the News of the World (NotW) between 2000 and 2006 and, secondly, allegations that Sun and NotW journalists paid public officials for information.

Cheryl Carter, Rebekah Brooks' former personal assistant

It is also alleged that Brooks, along with her former personal assistant Cheryl Carter (pictured above), 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, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire, and Coulson, 45, from Charing in Kent, 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, 44, from Raynes Park, south west London, the tabloid's ex-managing editor Stuart Kuttner, 73, from Woodford Green, Essex, and others to illegally access voicemails between 3 October 2000 and 9 August 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 1 January 2004 and  31 January 2012 and the other between 9 February 2006 and 16 October 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 6 July and 9 July 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 15 July and 19 July 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 (pictued above) is also facing two allegations that he conspired with the tabloid's former royal editor Goodman, 56, from Addlestone in Surrey, and persons unknown to commit misconduct in public office – one between 31 August  2002 and 31 January 2003, and the other between 31 January  and  3 June2005.

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.

Edis said: "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."

He said Brooks, her husband Charlie, and Hanna are also accused of conspiring together and with others to pervert the course of justice by moving material the police would have wanted from the Brooks's country home in Gloucestershire and taking it to News international's headquarters in Wapping, east London.

"On their way, or as part of the same operation or on the same day, material was collected from their London flat too and taken to the same place."

He said the material would have been wanted by the police as it was relevant to their investigation, adding: "Quite a complex little operation was set up to prevent that happening, which was discovered as a result of an accident which was rather bad luck for those conspirators involved.

"It is something that I think you will find quite memorable."

Jurors in the trial of former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and ex-spin doctor Andy Coulson have been told "journalists are no more entitled to break the criminal law than anybody else".

Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC told the Old Bailey that there was "no justification" for newspaper staff to get involved in phone-hacking or to make payments to public officials.

Glenn Mulcaire

He explained to jurors that private detective Glenn Mulcaire (pictured above) has already admitted phone-hacking, as have three other former News of the World journalists – Greg Miskiw, Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup.

Edis said: "The prosecution says that it is important in a free country that there is a free press.

"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 Mulcaire pleaded guilty to conspiracy to unlawfully intercept mobile phone voicemail messages in November 2006. Earlier this year, in these proceedings, he also admitted three counts of conspiracy to commit phone-hacking, along with a count of phone-hacking, he added.

The barrister said that Miskiw, Weatherup and Thurlbeck had also each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to illegally access voicemails.

He said: "Now what we say about that is, using all of that information that I've just given about those pleas, that there was a conspiracy which involved a significant number of people and it was quite a substantial conspiracy.

"And that may help you to decide now. Because those names, they knew.

"So who else knew?"

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.

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."

Celebrities including Kate Moss, Joanna Lumley and Will Young were named as some of the defendants' alleged victims of phone hacking.

Royal Lord Frederick Windsor, and Princes William and Harry's former private secretary Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton also had their voicemails hacked, Mr Edis said.

He told jurors that tomorrow they would hear more about how 13 recordings of the royal's voicemails were discovered, along with information about hacking related to former home secretary David Blunkett.

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow when Edis will continue his opening.

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