Phone-hacking trial: An arrest, lone wolves and malign influences

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.

  • Evidence moves on to Goodman's arrest in 2006.
  • Coulson told Goodman he had to say he was a "lone wolf" over hacking.
  • Hacker offered Goodman meeting with "current spook" to show links with security services.
  • Defendant told he would retain job if he did not "implicate" anyone else.
  • News International lawyer a "malign influence" during case.
  • Court resumed this morning to hear day four of former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman defending himself on charges of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office alongside the paper's then editor Andy Coulson. Goodman's defence QC, David Spens, began today's proceedings by asking the defendant about events between his arrest for phone hacking on 8 August 2006 and his conviction in February 2007.

    Goodman said he was arrested at home then taken to the police station and interviewed by police alongside a solicitor provided by News International, Henry Branman. On his legal advice the defendant made no comment to any questions. During a break in the interview, Goodman said, he told the lawyer "lots of people at the News of the World were doing this, I was just the one that was caught". The solicitor advised him, Goodman said, to blame "stress" and "lone wolf". Goodman said that he had "a pretty strong feeling that everything I said [to the solicitor] would go back to News International".

    After being charged, Goodman told the court that he was picked up from the police station by News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner. The defendant said Kuttner asked him about the police investigation and if he had told them anyone else was involved in phone hacking. They also discussed legal costs: "I was frightened about paying for the trial, I couldn't afford it." Police had also seized Goodman's bank card and cheque book as evidence so Kuttner gave Goodman's wife £100 and the next day another News International employee arrived at the defendant's home with £1000 in cash, the court was told.

    Goodman told the jury that on the same day the money arrived, 10 August 2007, he received a call from Andy Coulson, during which he took notes. The defendant said that Coulson said to him "we're mates but we'll have to suspend you" and agreed that News International would pay his legal costs and that Goodman would receive full pay while suspended. Coulson, the witness said, told him that no one wanted him to go to prison and if he pleaded guilty that would not happen. Goodman said he was worried he was being "bounced" into a guilty plea so he went to an internet cafe, set up a Hotmail account and downloaded some internal emails from News International to show others had knowledge of phone hacking. "I was just trying to defend myself," he added. A selection of these emails were then shown to the jury.

    Goodman told the court that he was in an emotional state and worried he would be "hung out to dry". He took the emails and gave them to an employment solicitor, Tony Lorenzo, for safe keeping. "I needed to know what kind of employment rights I had and couldn't rely on Henry Branman who was also working for News International". In a later conversation with Branman, Goodman said, the lawyer again "raised the topic of me being a lone wolf, which worried me, I was not".

    On 14 August Goodman met with Coulson at Cafe Rouge in London. The defendant said he was "very suspicious" about the meeting so took a recorder and taped the meeting. The witness recalled that Coulson told him that through his police contacts no one had any intention of taking the case further, Goodman would not go to prison, and that after the situation was dealt with he could come back to the News of the World, as long as he said he had acted alone and "went off the reservation". Goodman told the court he would be allowed to take three months off for stress. "You can be one of the people who comes back," he said he was told, as long as he "kept inside" the involvement of others. "Andy seemed to have lots of details about the criminal case that I never told him," Goodman went on, saying he thought these had came from his solicitor. Coulson, the defendant testified, said, "You've got to say you were a lone wolf", and told him that even if he went to jail his salary would still be paid and his wife and child looked after. "I thought it was low to bring my family into it," a clearly emotional Goodman told the court.

    Goodman told the court that his lawyer, Henry Branman, was pressuring him to plead guilty at the first opportunity. The defendant said he told the solicitor he could see no advantage in pleading guilty at this stage and he would not do it. On 31 August, the court was told, Coulson telephoned the defendant. "There was general discussion about the case and then he told me I was suspended but it's up to me whether I use you or not." Goodman said he was offered work doing book serialisation and giving other journalists advice on "royal stories" from home: "I told him it would be good to get back to work and he was still my employer and if I did not accept my salary would probably end."

    The court was then shown a "proof of evidence" created by the defendant to instruct his solicitor. The document informs the lawyer that convicted phone hacker Glenn Mulcaire had worked for the News of the World for 10 years and was paid through the news desk and goes on: "Mulcaire is well known for cracking impossible stories often involving communications". It continues to say that Mulcaire stated he was in touch with the security services and had offered Goodman a meeting with a "current spook" to back up his story. The document goes on to tell the solicitor that all of the payments to Mulcaire were authorised by the editor, Andy Coulson and managing editor Stuart Kuttner.

    The trial then moved Goodman's dealings with his 2006 barrister, Tim Kelsey-Fry, who was hired by News International to defend him. The court was read part of a briefing the defendant wrote for Kelsey-Fry, in which he tells the QC that he produced transcripts of intercepted voicemails and played them to "executives on the paper". Goodman said that on 3 November he met his solicitor, Henry Branman, who told him "judges may take a benign view of people who took responsibility for their actions and a negative one of people who thrashed around". Goodman said he was confused by this advice and he felt that the lawyer was working for both him and for News International. "By this stage I didn't really trust them," the defendant said, adding that he decided not to give Andy Coulson the copy of the prosecution evidence he was asking for. An internal News International email between Coulson and a legal advisor was then shown to the court which stated in part "Clive is being difficult about Kelsey should know this, and not that syndrome" and complained about Goodman not handing over the prosecution files.

    The court was then shown a copy of a delivery note showing that solicitor Henry Branman did deliver a copy of the prosecution files to News International. Goodman told the jury he had not been informed about this at the time and it "was contrary to my specific instructions".

    The court was then told about a meeting, a 7 November 2006 conference between Goodman, Branman, Kelsey-Fry and a News International lawyer we cannot name for legal reasons. The defendant told the court that it was agreed he would plead guilty and there was a discussion over mitigation. The News International lawyer told the meeting that Goodman would not lose his job as long as he did not "implicate" anyone else. "You cannot expect Andy to take you back after that," he said. Goodman told the court that after this comment the meeting became "bad tempered" and he was told that "Andy will deny any responsibility".

    The court then took a short break.

    When the jury returned David Spens QC asked the witness about a telephone conversation he had with Coulson two days after the conference which Goodman recorded. The jury was read a transcript of the recording during which Coulson states he needs to clarify some issues raised at the meeting and says in part: "There was one thing you mentioned and that's this idea it's a forgone conclusion you were going to be dismissed, I thought I made it clear that's not, you know, my intention at all, you are the one at the sharp end of it..but you know Clive my intention hasn't changed my absolute intention is to say at the end of this that we can still employ you..the best way to do that is to argue I have a duty of care over you over what happened to you...you need looking after and that's what we will do..we are on the same side here...it's swings and roundabouts you know, the truth is we are not there...I think we both agree that going forward your role with the royals is a very difficult one." Goodman told the court that despite this call "I didn't believe it for a second" he would retain his job.

    The court was then shown a transcript of a later conversation between the News International lawyer and Goodman in a Putney restaurant which Goodman recorded. The defendant said the meeting was "very relaxed to start with" until the lawyer told him that Coulson would deny any knowledge about phone hacking and "if I made allegations there was not way they would retain me" but "there was a place for me at the paper if I did not". Goodman told the court that he said he would not volunteer any information but "if I was asked I was not going to lie about it". The defence barrister then read excerpts of the transcript where Goodman insisted Coulson authorised the payments to Glenn Mulcaire knowing what they were for. The lawyer informed Goodman that Coulson denied this. Goodman told the lawyer that he thought he would be "pretty much unemployable" after the case was finished.

    The jury was then asked to leak at a 22 Nov email between the News International lawyer and Andy Coulson. The lawyer tells Coulson that Goodman has asked the lawyer not to attend his next meeting with the barrister Kelsey-Fry as his presence made Goodman "uncomfortable". The witness told the court he felt the lawyer was a "malign influence" who was reporting everything back to Coulson. The meeting with Kelsey-Fry took place and the barrister advised him not to mention anyone else as a judge might take a "dim view" considering it as an attempt by the defendant to avoid responsibility. Goodman said the prosecution documents were "quite transparent" about the involvement of at least another three News of the World staff with Mulcaire, but "police had decided to not to take it any further, the CPS had decided not to take it further". Goodman told the court he had to accept Kelsey-Fry's advice as "he was the expert, he knew the judges". "I didn't think I had any choice," the defendant said. On 29 November 2006, the court was told, Clive Goodman came to the Old Bailey and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to illegally intercept the voicemails of six members of the Royal household.

    The court then rose briefly while a document was copied for the jury. When they returned Judge Saunders said to them "during this case you may have come to regret the invention of the photocopier". The document was another proof of evidence produced by Goodman's lawyers. In this version, Spens pointed out, all mention of executives being involved in paying Glenn Mulcaire had been removed. The defendant said that he had "reluctantly accepted the advice" not to blame anyone else.

    There was another conference later on 12 December to discuss the sentencing hearing due in January 2007 and a meeting the defendant was to have with the probation service. Goodman said the News International lawyer, mentioned earlier, "had invited himself" to discuss "a special insight he had into the probation service". Goodman said he allowed the News International lawyer to attend part of the meeting during which, Goodman said, the lawyer said it was not the intention of the paper to sack him "unless he implicated anyone else". Goodman said he found this attempt to "dictate the line of the case shocking" and later asked that no representatives of News International be involved in his defence further.

    Court then rose for lunch.