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Phone-hacking trial: Defence completes case as trial nears end

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.

Clive Goodman

  • Police and CPS covered up hacking to avoid "embarrassing the royal family"
  • Coulson knew of Prince William "beagling" hack, Goodman tells court
  • "I've told the truth," former royal editor tells jury
  • Defence evidence ends, jury to retire to consider verdict in June
  • Proceedings resumed this morning in what is expected to be the final week of evidence at the trial of former News of the World editors Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks and others over allegations of illegal interception of voicemails and conspiracy to commit corruption in a public office.

    The day began with Andrew Edis QC questioning former News of the World Royal editor Clive Goodman, who is charged with buying two royal directories from police officers, an allegation he denies, claiming instead he received the books from various sources, including one from the late Princess Diana. The prosecutor brought into evidence emails from Goodman discussing a source who was described as a "royal cop". The defendant told the court this was "salesmanship" to ensure his story made the newspaper, describing it as an "acceptable piece of exaggeration" in the newspaper world.

    Edis then put it to the witness that in the emails he was admitting a criminal offence, yet people kept authorising the payments. "It was acceptable in the News of the World in those days to pay police officers?" "No," Goodman replied, "there was no offence." The QC asked about another email in which the witness refers to a "long term police contact". "That could mean someone who has contact with the police or used to be in the police," Goodman replied, and denied that he ever paid police officers for information.

    The prosecutor then turned to the issue of phone hacking, over which Goodman has already been convicted and jailed for in 2007. The defendant said he gained the information, unique voicemail numbers and PIN codes, to hack members of the royal family, including Prince William, Prince Harry and Kate Middleton, via private investigator Glenn Mulcaire but had "no idea how he did it". Edis suggested that the former journalist would not have hacked such "sensitive targets" without the authorisation of his editor, Andy Coulson. "I don't owe Andy any favours but I don't remember having any direct conversation with him about them," Goodman told the court. "In 2006 the police and Crown Prosecution Service knew who I had hacked but they ring-fenced it so as not to embarrass the royal family." He added: "I'm not on trial for phone-hacking but everyone keeps asking me about phone-hacking."

    Goodman was then asked about a further email about former Metropolitan police chief Ian Blair being drunk at an official event. "You are telling the editor it is a police source," Edis suggested. "I was exaggerating," the defendant replied, noting that the News of the World never ran the story. Shown another email about Prince William "beagling", the defendant told the court he had told Coulson at the time that this information had been discovered as the result of a voicemail hack.

    The court was then shown a statement made by Goodman by police in 2012 when he was first arrested over the telephone directories. The defendant told the court that at his first interview he had answered "no comment" to all questions put to him on legal advice and as a result of police leaks to the Guardian newspaper. The prosecutor reminded the defendant that the police caution he was given included "it may harm your defence if you do not mention something now that you later rely on in court". "I'm no expert in the law," the witness replied, again telling the court he did not answer questions on legal advice and instead gave a statement.

    The prosecutor then suggested to the witness that he had "bought stolen telephone directories". "There is no evidence they were stolen," Goodman replied. "Except for you saying they were a 'risky thing to nick'," Edis replied. "There is no evidence they were stolen," the defendant replied adding, "they could have been thrown out." Goodman went on: "I have told the truth to this court, as painful as it has been admitting these things."

    The prosecution then ended its cross-examination.

    David Spens QC, Goodman's barrister, then rose briefly to re-examine his client. The defendant told the court that he thought his 2006 legal team had been "in cahoots" with News International but he trusted his current representatives as he had "chosen them himself". Goodman also repeated that the phrase "police contact" did not mean the source was a serving police officer. "It could have been a civilian worker, a translator, anyone who had contact with the police."

    Judge Saunders then intervened to ask about the "sequence in which the phone hacking took place", suggesting that Goodman began intercepting voicemails in January 2005 at the instigation of then News of the World news-desk editor Greg Miskiw. The defendant agreed that this was correct but the details were difficult to recall. Goodman said Mulcaire had provided the details needed to have Prince William and Kate Middleton without payment. "He was showing off that he could get these difficult targets."

    Spens then told the court he was calling no witnesses and after distributing some documents closed his case. Judge Saunders told the jury that the proposed timetable for the rest of the case would mean they should expect to retire to consider their verdict on Monday 9 June and then read some legal instructions to them. Andrew Edis QC for the prosecution then rose to conclude his closing address.

    The prosecutor began by asking the jury to look at count seven on the indictment, a charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice against Rebekah Brooks, her husband Charlie Brooks and head of security for News International Mark Hanna. Edis told the court that text messages between Hanna and others in his security team show he was "managing the operation" of hiding evidence from the police. A text between two security staff was read to the court. "Broadsword to Danny boy, pizza delivered the chicken is in the pot," was answered, "f*cking amateurs, they should have done a dead letter drop or brush contact, log the hours as pizza delivery." "What does this mean?" the prosecutor asked the jury, suggesting this showed the security staff were complaining about following instructions and that the "amateur" was Charlie Brooks who was "not a professional security man". Edis added: "There's humour but it means "I've done my secret little job, perverting the course of justice."

    Edis then reminded the jury that none of the defendants had answered questions from the police over the incident, "relying on legal advice". "Each of these people is capable, strong-minded and successful, they don't have to find themselves relying on legal advice, especially in the case of Charlie Brooks who now claims he has an innocent explanation." The barrister pointed out that Charlie Brooks had changed his defence and "lied to the Daily Telegraph about it claiming a friend had dropped off the bag". Edis said: "Why would anyone be troubled about the truth being leaked to the press. Isn't that better than coming here two years later and answering questions from me?"

    The prosecutor then asked the jury to consider the budget documents from the News of the World which they have been given in the course of the case. "These are critical documents" as, Edis suggested, they show that phone hacker Glenn Mulcaire's contract was financially "a pretty big deal" over which a senior News International lawyer had been consultant. In most contracts, the barrister said, there would be a definition of what services were being provided, but not in the agreement with Mulcaire. "Did he forget, did he think this was not important, or did he already know what was being agreed?" The prosecutor went on: "That contract must have been awarded by the editor [Rebekah Brooks] or with her agreement, that is very strong evidence against her." The prosecutor suggested that other evidence showed Brooks was willing to "allow her journalists to break the law to get stories," as was Andy Coulson.

    The court screens were then turned off while a letter written by Brooks to Coulson, which is not fully in the public domain, was shown to the jury. "The letter is obviously true" Edis suggested, "why would you lie in a letter to the only other person who knows the truth, what would be the point?" The letter says, as the court has already heard, that the two shared everything and spoke often about work problems. The prosecutor told the court that the letter mattered as it showed they had a relationship that was so close they "shared information without inhibitions". The letter, Edis said, was not in evidence so the jury would "think badly" of the defendants but was to show that Coulson and Brooks "could keep secrets together".

    Court then rose for lunch