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Jury in phone-hacking trial played recording of hacker Glenn Mulcaire 'blagging' voicemail PINs from phone company

The trial of former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, the prime minister's former director of communications Andy Coulson and six others began at the Old Bailey on 28 October. The Drum will be in court for the duration of the trial, which is expected to last at least four months, and will provide comprehensive updates on this blog.

The trial is scheduled to examine seven counts that include conspiracy to intercept communications in the course of their transmission, conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office, and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Coverage will be provided by James Doleman, who was acclaimed for his exhaustive and responsible reporting of the Tommy Sheridan perjury trial.

Trial: The prosecution opening statement continues at the Old Bailey

This morning at the Old Bailey trial of Rebekah Brooks, Andrew Coulson and six others, Andrew Edis QC for the prosecution told the court about the alleged services Glenn Mulcaire, the convicted phone hacker, provided for the now defunct News of the World.

Mulcaire joined the paper’s “special investigation team” in June 2001. Initially employed on a freelance basis, Mulcaire was given a written contract in September 2001 which guaranteed a payment of nearly £100,000 per annum. As his direct boss, Greg Miskiw did not have the authority to agree such a contract, only senior management, and Edis suggested that it was inconceivable that no-one asked “What are we paying this chap for?” or enquired what “valuable service” he was providing the paper.

The jury was then played audio, recorded by Mulcaire himself, of an instance of “blagging”. Mulcaire was heard phoning mobile telephone provider O2, passing himself off as an employee by using the password “Albatross” and acquiring the PIN voicemail number of various phones.

Edis then took the jury through the timelines of three alleged instances of phone hacking; those of Tessa Jowell, John Prescott and Frederick Windsor. In each case, Mulcaire was tasked by the paper, acquired the PIN numbers of the target in question, made an exploratory call to check the number and then hacked into the voicemail. The court was also told that not all of the alleged hacking was done by Glenn Mulcaire as records showed that some voicemails were accessed through a private telephone number at News International headquarters in Wapping, London. The court was shown emails that the prosecution say were between Mulcaire and Ian Edmondson at the News of the World, which list mobile numbers and the PIN needed to access voicemails.

The jury were also shown evidence that Mulcaire had hacked into the messages of journalists at the Mail on Sunday. Edis told the court that no journalist wanted to be “scooped” and the easiest way to find out what a rival knew was to “hack their phone”, describing journalism as a "dog eat dog world".

The court then took a short break

When the trial resumed, Edis then began to look at the details of Mulcaire’s employment by the News of the World. Mulcaire was on an exclusive contract of around £100,000 per annum. Under Rebekah Brooks' editorship he had also received additional payments per story, however when Andy Coulson took over he “quickly put a stop to that”. Mr Edis then put it to the jury that it would be “difficult for Mr Coulson to put a stop to something he didn’t know about”.

The prosecuting QC then brought into evidence a News of the World article about a charity football match its employees had arranged. In the piece, Mulcaire is named as part of the paper’s “special investigations unit” and referred to jokingly as “Trigger”. Mr Edis told the jury that Rebekah Brooks had said that she had never heard of Mulcaire until he was arrested. Pointing to the article Edis, put it to the jury that all Brooks would have to have done to find out about Mulcaire was to look at the News of the World, which was, as he said yesterday,"Hardly War and Peace", remarking: “The principle person who should read her own paper is it’s editor.”

Edis then brought into evidence emails about the financial situation at the News of the World in 2001. Revenue was falling and cost-cutting measures had been introduced, including a recruitment freeze and a requirement that any spending over £2,000 be approved by senior management. He asked in this climate how Mulcaire could be employed at £100,000 per annum and “no-one questioned this at all?” He also told the court that Mulcaire continued to be employed on a freelance basis despite moves at the paper to check that people being paid gross salaries were really freelance writers. He asked “Why did this not apply to Mulcaire? They knew he was committing crimes and had to be kept under wraps.”

Court then adjourned for lunch, returning this afternoon to resume the prosecution opening statement. The defendants deny the charges.