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Phone-hacking trial: Andy Coulson defence QC tells jury there is 'no evidence' of Milly Dowler deleted voicemails

By James Doleman |

November 4, 2013 | 5 min read

Monday afternoon’s session of the trial of Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and six others opened with the lead prosecution lawyer, Andrew Edis QC, concluding his opening remarks to the jury (read Monday morning's report here). He ended with what he called an “intricate piece of evidence” - a screenshot from a laptop belonging to Rebekah Brooks that showed what other devices had been connected to the same internet router. Edis told the jury that it was the prosecution’s contention that an iPad and iPhone that had been connected the the router had never been recovered.

Trial: Murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler

He then concluded by telling the court that it was inconceivable that the alleged conspiracy to hide material from the police was done without Rebekah Brooks’ "knowledge, agreement and consent".

Then, in an unusual move, the lead defence QC for Andrew Coulson, Timothy Langdale, rose to address the court. He told the jury that it would be two months or so before they would hear the defence case and then Coulson would himself give "his own account, testifying about his role as deputy editor and editor of the, now closed, News of the World". While Coulson “wished he had made some different decisions”, he would deny the offences he was charged with.

Langdale told the court that an editor's job was in an environment that was in many ways a “story gathering factory”, as the flow of information was “endless and continuing”. Coulson also had other responsibilities, including looking after the commercial side of the paper, and every day faced a “blizzard of emails”.

It was important, he added for the jury to judge Coulson’s actions by what he knew at the time, not with the benefit of hindsight. He also referred to a story that first appeared in the Guardian, and was repeated elsewhere, that people acting for the paper had been involved in deleting voicemail messages from the telephone of murder victim Milly Dowler, raising “false hope” that she was still alive.

He told the jury that there was no evidence that this had ever happened, He also stated the the prosecution had “chosen not to mention” that convicted phone-hacker Glenn Mulcaire had intercepted the voicemails of Coulson himself. Langdale concluded by reminding the jury their job was to “focus solely on the evidence”.

The court then spent some time reading through a list of “agreed facts” - issues on which all parties were in agreement over. These were non-contentious matters such as the contract signed by Mulcaire with the News of the World, the dates of various parties' employment with the newspaper and technical issues over how exactly phones were hacked on different networks.

The court then heard the beginning of the testimony of the first witness in the case. Detective Sergeant Greg Smith, the lead investigator in the Metropolitan Police’s investigation of the interception of Milly Dowler’s voicemails. The majority of his short testimony was taken up with introducing the jury to the form of the timeline document that the prosecution used to link together different pieces of evidence on each alleged hacking victim.

This did, however, reveal that as well as transcripts of Dowler’s voicemails, Mulcaire had also secured the billing records of her family's home landline number. Asked by prosecution lawyer Mark Bryant-Heron if he believed Mulcaire had “blagged” this information, DS Smith agreed that he did.

Justice Saunders then ended the case for the day with court reconvening at 10am tomorrow.

To view other posts from The Drum's comprehensive trial coverage, click here

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