Phone-hacking trial: Journalist Dan Evans was offered job by Andy Coulson after phone-hack boast, he tells court
- Former News of the World journalist Dan Evans takes stand
- He tells court "screwing around with people's telephony was a standard part of the tabloid journalist's kit" and "everyone knew about it"
- Discussed phone-hacking with Andy Coulson at London hotel
- Intercepted "a couple of hundred" people's voicemails while at News of the World
- Medical and tax records available "on demand" to journalists
- Hacking phones a "farming process" at News of the World
Court resumed after lunch to hear the next witness for the prosecution, Daniel Evans, a former journalist at the News of the World. Due to reporting restrictions we will not be naming everyone mentioned in his evidence. Before he began, Andrew Edis QC told the jury that Evans' name would be added to the indictment as one of the co-conspirators in the alleged phone-hacking at News of the World between 2002 and 2006.
The court was told that Evans has pleaded guilty to the offence of conspiracy to unlawfully intercept communications while he was at the Sunday Mirror and also, later, at the News of the World. Evans has also, the jury was told, pleaded guilty to perverting the course of public justice by giving a false statement. In August 2012, the witness confirmed, he entered into an agreement with the Crown Prosecution Service to give evidence for them.
The witness told the court that he joined the News of the World from the Sunday Mirror in January 2005. He had been approached by a journalist from the paper three times before finally agreeing to join their staff. While at the Sunday Mirror, Evans described his job as a "news reporter" and his duties included "hacking people's voicemails". He had been instructed on how to do this when he got a full time job at the paper as when he was a freelance he "didn't even know you can do that".
On trial: Andy Coulson
Evans then named the journalist who told him how to carry out the practice, and agreed that he was the same person who later moved to the News of the World and offered him a job there. The Sunday Mirror had a "phone-hacking regime", the witness said, and it was these skills he brought to the News of the World. He had "a pretty big list of targets", Evans told the court. The witness told the jury about a story he had done on Andy Gilchrist, a leader of the Fire Brigades Union. The Mirror had not run the story as they did not "attack unions", but he passed it to the Sun, which paid him some money for it. In May 2004 he met two News International journalists in a pub who discussed giving him a job. The News of the World was well known for its "hard-hitting investigations" which attracted him to the role and they joked about how the paper had "stitched up" David Beckham over an affair he had been having.
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The witness was asked if the conversation in the pub had discussed voicemail interception and he said it was "pretty clear" he would be expected to use his skills in this area. He did not accept a job at that time as he was reluctant to be the "pet phone hacker". He also felt things had "slid too far" over hacking at the Sunday Mirror and he was reluctant to get involved in the practice at another newspaper. He told his bosses about the offer and they raised his pay as they "wanted to keep me".
He was contacted again and asked to speak to a senior member of staff at the paper. He went to meet him and the original journalist. The member of staff was described by Evans as "bombastic" and told the jury they discussed stories they had worked on and the "cycle of investment and success" being undertaken by News International, unlike Trinity Mirror, the "poor relation at Fleet street" as the witness called it. "My head was turned," Evans said, and his Sunday Mirror role was just "more of the same, cracking phones". "Screwing around with people's telephony was a standard part of the tabloid journalist's kit," Evans said, "pretty much everyone knew about it."
Evans then told the court about further meetings with News of the World staff to discuss moving there. He testified that at these he specifically discussed the "nuts and bolts" of voicemail interception including what equipment he would need and his list of famous people and their voicemail "PIN numbers". He was then asked to meet then News of the World editor Andy Coulson to continue the discussion. They met for breakfast at a London hotel and they discussed Evans' background and skills. He told Coulson he could get stories "cheaply" through the "stuff with phones" without the expense of an investigation. About 10 minutes after the end of the meeting he was told "you have the job". The witness confirmed that at no point did Coulson ask what he meant by the phrase "stuff with phones" and seemed to know what he meant. Evans then resigned from the Sunday Mirror and worked out his three months notice and joined the News of the World as a features writer on 5 January 2005.
Evans was then asked about his early career at the paper. He told the court he arrived with a strong story list, including one about a soldier who was looking to sell a handgun. He was emailed a "contact list" which was displayed on the court screens. The list, eight pages long, contained internal contacts and also entries for "big brother press office", "couriers", "Ronnie Biggs" and "Cilla Black". Asked why he was given it, Evans replied: "They wanted me to hack the names on there."
Asked if he had hacked them, the witness said he did "most days". Evans said he was "a little bit crestfallen" to be asked as he wanted to do something a little more interesting. Pressed by Andrew Edis QC, Evans estimated he had hacked a couple of hundred people while at the paper.
The witness was then asked what other sources of information he used at the paper. He told the court that he had a budget for inquiry agents and used a couple of companies to get their numbers. He estimated that it cost a "couple of grand a week" to locate mobile numbers and people's telephone bills. These could be acquired "on demand" within three hours, he said. Also available were medical and tax records - "any private information you can imagine really," Evans told the court. Once the leads were generated, targets would be approached and any objections "knocked down with a chequebook".
If the police "rocked up and started taking people's desks apart", you would have, Evans said, another source ready to show the source of the story. Evans was asked of he knew how the personal information was found. He said he believed this was done by "pretext blagging"; people impersonating members of staff at companies to gather credit records etc. As well as his company phones, Evans told the jury, he was given a cash advance to buy untraceable "burner" phones to carry out illegal activity. These were changed every three months.
Evans was then asked about how he hacked phones. He said that he would use two mobiles and call the same number simultaneously. This would, he said, "trip the phone" into voicemail and he would enter obvious PIN numbers such as "1234", dates of birth, anniversaries, children's birthdays - "what I would use myself," he said. He would then listen to voicemails unless they had not been heard by the user as this would leave "footprints". In that case he would just call back later. "It was almost like a farming process," he told the jury. When he found something interesting he would "tell the boss", including how he got the information. There was a lot of pressure, the witness said, for each journalist to come up with "three solid stories a week" for the features department.
Andrew Edis then asked the witness how he was finally caught hacking. He confirmed he made a blunder when hacking an interior designer's phone and she had been alerted. She got an order from a judge forcing Vodafone to hand over data on who had called. This revealed Evans' own company phone was the source. Asked why he did not use a "burner", Evans replied: "I was a moron," adding that he had not done any phone-hacking for years and had got "pretty blasé about it".
Court then rose for the day.
All of the defendants deny all of the charges, the trial continues.