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Phone-hacking trial: Royal hacking hidden to avoid 'embarrassment' court told

By James Doleman |

June 9, 2014 | 9 min read

  • Judge discusses Coulson "do his phone" email
  • Prosecution say refers to hacking, defence says not
  • "You decide," judge tells jury
  • Voicemail interception of royal household began in 2002
  • Hacking covered up "to avoid embarrassing the royal family", jury told
  • Proceedings resumed after lunch with Mr Justice Saunders continuing his review of the evidence for the jury. The judge began the afternoon by discussing the evidence over Calum Best, son of George Best, and a model Lorna Hogan. Hogan, the court has heard, visited nightclubs and attempted to find "celebrity gossip" which she then sold to a News of the World journalist for up to £10,000 a story. Saunders told the court that there was no direct evidence Best's voicemail was intercepted, although there are notes referring to him from the records of phone hacker Glenn Mulcaire and evidence there were calls made by Mulcaire to his mobile phone.

    In 2006, the jury was told, Hogan became pregnant and agreed to sell a picture of a scan of her unborn baby to the News of the World. After Best was alerted to this and texted Hogan about it saying "how can you be so low as to sell a photo of an unborn child". The judge then told the court that a hunt began within the paper to find the source who had leaked the scan story to Best, which included Glenn Mulcaire hacking the phone of a News of the World journalist we cannot name for legal reasons. This, the judge reminded the jury, was what the defence say was the reason for Andy Coulson's "do his phone" email which was, they say, not an instruction to hack but a request to check the journalist's billing records to find out if he had been in contact with Best.

    Hacked: William and Kate

    Saunders asked the jury to recall that Coulson had said he had been concerned about accessing journalists' phone data, even though by his own admission he knew his own reporters were accessing other people's phone bills. The Judge suggested that the "do his phone" email "would have to have meant something to the recipient" and pointed out that the same phrase was used by Glenn Mulcaire on his notes to refer to voicemail interception. However he also noted that there was no evidence that Best's phone was hacked after that date or that anyone looked up the journalist's phone records. "It is up to you to decide," he told the jury.

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    The judge then took the jury through the timelines of other hacking victims including Tessa Jowell, her husband David Mills and then deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. Saunders noted that over the Prescott story Mulcaire hacked the phones of two Mail on Sunday journalists, Sebastian Hamilton and Dennis Rice. He reminded the jury that while the prosecution claimed that the information the News of the World used to produce a "spoiler" of the Mail story came from phone hacking, the defence say it was "lifted" from the first edition of the Mail on Sunday. Which was correct was not vital, Saunders said, telling the jury that hacking was going on and the "critical question for them" to decide was if Andy Coulson knew about it.

    The judge then asked the jury to consider that so much phone hacking was going on in 2006 that Glenn Mulcaire sent an email to a journalist at the paper titled "overload, no more please". "The prosecution are suggesting poor Mr Mulcaire couldn't cope," he added. In May 2006, the jury were told, Paul McCartney split up with Heather Mills and Mulcaire hacked the phones of three people associated with the couple including Fiona Mills, Heather's sister.

    Saunders then moved on to the testimony of Eimar Cook, who, the jury was reminded had been called a "liar" by defence counsel who had attacked the prosecution for even calling her. The judge reminded the court that Cook had said that in 2004 she had discussed phone hacking with Rebekah Brooks and the then Sun editor's arrest for assaulting actor Ross Kemp, which in fact had not occurred until several months after Cook and Brooks had the conversation. Saunders told the jury that the defence had alleged Cook had a motive to lie as she was in the process of suing News International for intercepting her voicemails. The judge also noted that the two other people who attended the lunch had testified that did not recall phone hacking being discussed. "You will have to assess her and her evidence," he said.

    The presiding judge then moved on to the hacking of former PFA head Gordon Taylor. Saunders noted that it was on the same day Mulcaire delivered these transcripts that a plan to cut his retainer by 25 per cent was dropped. It was this hack, and Taylor's subsequent financial settlement, which led to the police reopening their investigation into the News of the World.

    Court then took a short break.

    When the jury returned, Mr Justice Saunders said he would like to go back to Coulson's "do his phone" email and asked them to take into account that there was a mention in Mulcaire's notes to "do both mobiles" but there was a four-year gap between both and this should be treated with caution. "Is it a term of art is up to you, but don't put too much store on it," he said.

    The judge then moved on to the voicemail interception of members of the royal household. He asked the jury to note that this appeared to have begun by Glenn Mulcaire in 2002 and royal editor Clive Goodman had taken over in 2005 contacting the phone hacker via then news editor Greg Miskiw. In October 2005, the jury was reminded, Goodman had testified he was contacted directly by Mulcaire and agreed to arrange for further hacking of members of three members of the royal household. Goodman, Saunders told the jury, claimed Coulson knew that a payment of £500 a week to Mulcaire was to intercept voicemails. Coulson however denies this.

    The jury was then shown a folder of emails around a story about Prince Harry asking for help from his private secretary with an essay. The judge recalled the prosecution's claim that Goodman saying to Coulson "we know this to be true" showed Coulson had read the transcript of the call, while the defence contend "that is just the sort of thing people in newspapers say". Again the judge told the jury "It's a matter for you to decide." Saunders then when through the list of Goodman's hacks of the royals at this period including the interception of the voicemails of Prince William, Prince Harry and Kate Middleton and the stories that resulted from this.

    The judge noted that in first appearance on the witness stand Goodman had denied remembering hacking these royal phones. "When someone lies to you in the witness box you have to take that into account when evaluating all of their evidence," he told the jury. Saunders asked the jury to recall that Goodman claimed he was unwell when asked about this matter and had never been asked by the police. The judge also noted that the Crown Prosecution Service had the evidence for these hacks in 2006 but had not prosecuted Goodman over them as they did "not want to embarrass the royal family". Saunders reminded the jury that they had heard no evidence on that decision and it was not part of their deliberations.

    The judge then reminded the court that both Coulson and News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner had said they no knowledge that Goodman's source for his royal stories was phone hacking and believed he had a confidential source close to the "young royals".

    Among the final victims of phone hacking named in court today was UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who had his voicemails intercepted in 2006 as the News of the World was investigating an alleged affair between him and Liga Howells. Judge Saunders reminded the jury that they had heard a recording of a tape recording of Glenn Mulcaire calling O2 to change Farage's pin number so he could access his voicemail. Other phone hacking victims named by Judge Saunders were Kerry Katona, Geoffrey Archer, Mark Dyer, Tom Parker Bowles and Eimar Cook.

    Court then adjourned for the day,

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

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