By continuing to use The Drum, I accept the use of cookies as per The Drum's privacy policy

Phone-hacking trial: Andy Coulson defence 'preposterous', prosecution tells jury

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.

Andy Coulson

  • Prosecution ends closing argument
  • Brooks letter to Coulson "elegant, eloquent and painful to read"
  • "It was Carry on Hacking at the News of the World," prosecution says
  • Prosecutor tells jury "I leave this case with you"
  • Court resumed after lunch to hear Andrew Edis QC deliver the final part of the prosecution's closing address. He had the jury given a copy of a letter, written by Rebekah Brooks to Andy Coulson in 2004. Edis told the jury to consider the closeness of the relationship between the two and had the jury read the letter to themselves. For reasons of privacy, the full contents were not read to the court or displayed on the large screens. This is not a rambling incoherent letter, the QC said, "it's perfectly written, elegant, eloquent and painful to read".

    Edis then asked the jury to consider the hacking of missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone. He suggested the jury use their "common sense", adding "keeping your common sense close is the best way to get through this case". The disappearance of Milly Dowler, the prosecutor said, was a "running story that featured in the News of the World every week, it was an enormous tragedy". Dowler's phone, Edis said, had been hacked by Glenn Mulcaire and the contents of her voicemail were published in the paper. A "posse of journalists were sent to Telford thanks to the phone hack," he said, "it wasn't a secret, they thought that as the phone hacking was being used to find Milly Dowler no one would mind." Edis went on: "They knew about phone hacking and none of them lifted a finger to stop it". There was "no fuss," the QC went on to say, and the only explanation for this was "they already knew".

    The prosecutor asked the jury to consider if the Milly Dowler story was important to the paper and suggested the jury might like to consider the level of activity, the number of journalists involved in the story and the fact that managing editor Stuart Kuttner phoned the police personally about the information. Edis added that no one told the police until late on the second day after they received the information, "who made that decision, no one will admit it." The prosecutor also pointed out that if the paper had found Milly Dowler that would have been the front page story. "The editor would have to know about it."

    Edis pointed to Stuart Kuttner's case and described it as "I can't remember but I am of very good character" and asked the jury to consider that on the witness stand the former managing editor did "recall facts that appeared to help him" and asked them to note that no medical evidence on Kuttner's memory had been presented to him. "You only have his word that he can't remember," the prosecutor said. The QC said that Coulson had admitted moving the Milly Dowler "voicemail" story which someone had "dressed up to appear it came from a police source". "Why did this happen?" Edis asked, and went on: "Mr Coulson has told you he was unhappy with the mix, although I'm not sure if he ever explained to you what he meant by that."

    The court was then shown copies of "news schedules" from the week after the Dowler "voicemail" story which lists a story "SM Milly". "This would have been presented at conference, with Rebekah Brooks sitting there there but was never published, someone must have made that decision and that must have been the editor." He argued that to make that decision the editor would have to know what had been written the week before. Edis also suggested that the idea that 13-year-old Dowler could have been working in a factory was, on the surface, nonsense. "You would only have believed it if you had heard the voicemails," he asked the jury to consider.

    The prosecutor then reminded the jury about the evidence of Eimar Cook, who met Brooks in 2002 at a dinner while she was involved in a "messy divorce with golfer Colin Montgomery". At the dinner, Cook testified, Brooks advised her to change her telephone PIN to avoid being hacked and mentioned a story the News of the World published about Paul McCartney had been sourced from a hack. "The case does not hinge on it but you may choose to take it into account," Edis said. "Fundamentally do you think Mrs Cook was honest?" the prosecutor asked.

    Court then took a short break

    When the jury returned, Andrew Edis QC told the jury he had only an hour to go and began by asking the jury to consider the case of David Blunkett. Coulson, the court was reminded, told the court he found out about the hacking of the then home secretary's phone. "His account is preposterous," Edis said, pointing out that none of the "public interest" elements of the story the former editor mentioned made it into the paper. "He did know, he did approve as we know Mr Mulcaire continued to get his money from the paper," Edis said. The prosecutor continued: "By 2005 the amount of hacking going on was incredible, the lights were well and truly on". He described Coulson's testimony that he was not aware of the hacking as "ridiculous."

    Edis the asked the jury to consider that while the News of the World did not name the woman Blunkett was having an affair with, the Sun, edited by Rebekah Brooks, named Kimberley Quinn the following day. The prosecutor invited the jury to consider that phone records showed the two were in constant contact that day. "There was an arrangement" between two people, he suggested, who were "very close". The barrister said that Coulson's response to the hacking of Blunkett "falsified" his account that he had been shocked by the interception of Blunkett's voicemail. "It was Carry on Hacking at the News of the World."

    The prosecutor then moved on to the testimony of Dan Evans and told the jury he was a "difficult witness to assess as he is a self-confessed phone hacker" and reminded them that the former journalist had signed an agreement to get a reduced sentence as a result of testifying. Edis reminded the jury that Evans' skill was phone hacking and he was hired after an interview with Coulson. The features department "wanted a phone hacker too", the prosecutor alleged, and pointed to the fact that as well as a work phone he was given expenses to buy two other pay as you go phones, the hackers' kit.

    Edis then moved on to an email which is a discussion between various News of the World staff and Coulson a possible affair being carried out between then home secretary Charles Clarke and his personal assistant, and also mentioned telephone numbers. "Dan Evans said the office cat knew about hacking," Edis said, adding, "you might want to call this the office cat email". The prosecutor asked the jury to consider Coulson's evidence that he had been at the Labour Party conference on the day Evans claimed he played the former editor a voicemail. "But there is no evidence these meetings ever happened other than diary entries with cxl written beside them," the barrister said, arguing Coulson could easily have attended the office that day. "Of course they wanted to be back, there was a paper to be published." The prosecutor asked the jury to be cautious but to consider Evans' evidence carefully.

    The barrister then briefly mentioned a tape, recovered from phone hacker Glenn Mulcaire's house, where he recorded himself listening to a tape of an emotional David Blunkett voicemail and remarks "just say I love you and it's 50 grand". "That's the reality of the operation," Edis remarked. "Blunkett doesn't know what's going on with his life and Mulcaire is counting the cash." The barrister said that a 2006 email showed Mulcaire complaining about "overload" because of the amount of hacking he was being asked to do, not just of famous people but also of other journalists so the News of the World could produce "spoilers" to other newspapers' exclusives. He is "hacked out," Edis quipped.

    The prosecutor then turned to an email seen by the jury many times in which Coulson tells another journalist "do his phone" in relation to reality TV star Calum Best. Edis suggested that at this point, rather than the News of the World being a "harmonious" office, Mulcaire was being tasked to hack Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and a number other journalists we cannot name for legal reasons. "They were turning in on each other," the barrister said. The prosecutor said "do his phone" was clearly an instruction to hack the phone and the journalist it was sent to, who we cannot name for legal reasons, was an "enthusiastic phone hacker". Edis added that it was clear "Mr Coulson thought investigating people's phones was a good way to find things out".

    The barrister then invited the jury to consider the reaction of Andy Coulson after Goodman was arrested in 2006. "Their instinct was to cover it up," he said, "which in itself is evidence of guilt". The prosecutor asked the jury to note that while the records show there were a number of meeting about the Goodman arrest "no one can now remember what happened, you may want to ask yourself if these witnesses were trying to help you or not". Brooks, Edis asked the jury to recall, held meetings with police in 2006 and she would have been aware that given the scale of the hacking "it could not have been limited to one rogue reporter". The prosecutor suggested that Brooks therefore "knew a lot more than what came out in court" and yet, he asked the jury to consider, when Goodman was released from prison the then Sun editor offered him a job. Brooks, Edis said, also negotiated a deal with publicist Max Clifford to end his civil case. "It was a lot of money just to stop people telling lies."

    Edis ended by telling the jury that the truth did not come out in 2006, and perhaps all of it never will, but the "cover-up" didn't succeed and they knew more than anyone did then. He asked the jury to listen "with the same sceptical air that I hope you listened to me". He continued: "None of us can tell you what to do. I know this has been a pretty long trial but the important phase is coming where you go out and consider your verdict." He told the jury that "no one pretends [this is] an easy task" but "if you come back with a verdict you reach in good conscience you will have done your job, I leave this case with you".

    Court then adjourned for the day

    All of the defendants deny all of the charges, the trial continues