Phone-hacking trial: News International executives knew about Blunkett voicemails, court hears

By James Doleman |

June 9, 2014 | 9 min read

  • Tapes of David Blunkett voicemails found in News International safe
  • News International executives aware of David Blunkett hack, jury told
  • Dan Evans evidence should be "treated with care", judge says
  • "Where is the office cat?" defence ask
  • Court resumed this morning to hear Mr Justice Saunders continue his summing up to the jury of the over seven months of evidence heard at court 12 in London's Old Bailey.

    The judge began by asking the jury to look at a folder of evidence relating to the 2004 interception of mobile phone voicemails left by then home secretary David Blunkett to Spectator publisher Kimberley Quinn, who he later had a child with.

    Andy Coulson arrives at court this morning

    Saunders told the court that there was no dispute that convicted phone hacker Glenn Mulcaire intercepted over 300 voicemails from Quinn's phone and recordings of these were found by police in a safe at News International. The judge reminded the jury that Andy Coulson has testified he had heard the recordings of the voicemails and arranged to meet David Blunkett in August 2004 to "stand the story up". The News of the World ran the story the following Sunday without naming Quinn; she was however named the next day by the Sun, edited at that time by Rebekah Brooks.

    The jury were asked to recall that Coulson had told the court he was "shocked and angry" when he found out about the voicemail interception and he had ordered the journalist concerned to stop. Saunders reminded the court that the prosecution's argument was that Coulson had to admit knowing about the Blunkett hacking because the evidence is overwhelming, a contention his defence team deny. The judge then went over Coulson's evidence that he came to believe the Blunkett story was "in the public interest" as the then home secretary was discussing sensitive information with Quinn. The jury were reminded that Coulson had told the court he did not know in 2004 that voicemail interception was a criminal offence. The judge noted that none of the "public interest" matters raised by the former editor appeared in the final article which the prosecution had said showed that the newspaper was only interested in a salacious story.

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    Justice Saunders then reminded the jury of testimony around a News of the World lawyer who we cannot name for legal reasons. He asked the jury to accept that while they had heard evidence that the lawyer was consulted about voicemail interception in 2004 but the question of his guilt or innocence was not a matter for their considerations, adding, "it's clear a number of News International executives" knew about the Blunkett voicemail hacking,

    The judge then turned to the role of Rebekah Brooks. He noted the Sun had exclusively published Kimberley Quinn's name the day after the News of the World revealed the affair and that phone data showed Coulson and Brooks were in constant contact over this period. He told the jury they would have to consider the prosecution position that the two must have spoken about the Blunkett story and the defence case that the rivalry between the two newspapers would mean Coulson would not have told her in case he was scooped by the Sun and their discussion was about "personal things". Saunders then asked the jury to consider: "If cuts had been sufficient to stand the story up it is likely, you may think, that other papers would have run it."

    Saunders then went through the details of other phone hacking victims from 2004/2005 including Delia Smith, Charles Clarke and Clarke's special advisor Hanna Pawlby. The jury were told that they would have to weigh the evidence about then News of the World editor Andy Coulson's state of knowledge about the voicemail interception that was undoubtedly going on.

    The judge then moved on to the hacking of Jude Law and Sienna Miller, noting that both Glenn Mulcaire and a journalist, Dan Evans, were intercepting the couple's voicemails and said to the jury "there was a great deal of hacking going on at the News of the World, you may think". Saunders said that as an actor Law had an "Oscar winning career" adding: "We like to read about them over our cornflakes, the stories sell newspapers." The judge reminded the jury that hacking was not the only way the News of the World gathered information and that Law had said in court he was aware in 2011 that family members were approached for stories but not aware they were paid until he was in the witness box in this trial.

    Saunders then reminded the jury that they should approach the evidence of Dan Evans with care as he had admitted phone hacking both at the News of the World and the Sunday Mirror, and had a motive, a reduced sentence, for implicating others. He told the jury it was up to them if they believed Evans' testimony and noted that while the defence said he was a "discredited witness" the prosecution had suggested he could be relied on when documents backed up his story. The judge further noted that Dan Evans showed a "clear dislike of Andy Coulson" during his testimony but that "may have been a result of the cross-examination he was undergoing". Saunders then took the jury through the legal process which led to Evans receiving a "section 73" agreement from the Crown Prosecution Service in return for his testimony.

    The judge reminded the jury that Evans had said he carried out "in excess of 1000 phone hacks" in a year, mainly using 'double taps' – ringing a number with two phones simultaneously to trigger voicemail. The jury were shown a copy of Evans' expenses claim for two "pay as you go" mobiles and top up cards for them. "He became careless though," Saunders noted, and began to use the mobile phone he was issued by the News of the World. It was this which finally led to Evans' activities being discovered in 2008 when he attempted to intercept the voicemails of designer Kelly Hoppen. Saunders reminded the jury that Evans had told the court phone hacking was an "open secret" and was discussed at the office every day. "Dan Evans said the office cat knew about hacking, the defence say 'where is the office cat?'" Saunders said, adding that the jury should consider whether "there a lot of people out there who know about phone hacking and haven't come forward?"

    Court then took a short break.

    When the jury returned Mr Justice Saunders moved on to what he called "the central part of Mr Evans' evidence" – that in 2005 he played a voicemail from Sienna Miller to actor Daniel Craig – saying "Can't speak. I'm with Jude at the Groucho, I love you" – to Andy Coulson and others at the News of the World. The journalist had told the court he was being bullied and under heavy pressure to produce a front page exclusive or face the sack. Saunders noted that there was a dispute about where Miller was when the message was left and the defence contend that she could not have been in the Groucho club at the date of the message. The judge also noted that phone records showed Evans was working on other stories on the day he said he played the voicemail to Coulson, including hacking Jeff Brazier, partner of reality TV star Jade Goody.

    Saunders told the jury that the question for them on Evans' evidence was to judge his testimony that Andy Coulson was aware of, and agreed to, his activities. He advised them to take into account the documentary evidence and reminded them again to treat his testimony with great care. The judge asked the jury to note that while the defence said that Evans had fabricated the Daniel Craig hack to implicate Coulson, the prosecution had responded "why would he need to?" as his hacking activities are well documented. Saunders also reminded the jury that Coulson claimed he was at the Labour Party conference on the Tuesday Evans claimed he played him the tape. However the judge noted the former editor had said he could not recall if the meetings he had booked with various cabinet ministers happened or not. "There have been many points made by both sides on this," Saunders told the jury, noting that the defence said Evans "was lying through his teeth". "It is up to you to decide who you believe," he concluded.

    Court then rose for lunch.


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