30 Oct 2013

Three journalists plead guilty to phone hacking

A prosecutor says three senior journalists at the defunct News of the World tabloid have already pleaded guilty to hacking phones.

Lawyer Andrew Edis said ex-news editor Greg Miskiw, ex-chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, and former reporter James Weatherup all entered guilty pleas ahead of this week’s high-profile phone hacking trial.

Private detective Glenn Mulcaire also admitted hacking the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

Mr Edis said that Mr Mulcaire had been paid a retainer of around £100,000 a year by the NoW, described by the prosecutor as an “extraordinary arrangement” which must have required high level approval.

Mr Mulcaire is accused of hacking the phones of celebrities including Kate Moss, Joanna Lumley and Will Young.

The case sees former News of the World top editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, as well as several others, facing charges stemming from the revelation that the Rupert Murdoch tabloid eavesdropped on the voicemails of celebrities, politicians, and crime victims.

The defendants all deny the charges, but Mr Edis said that the guilty pleas already entered show “there was a conspiracy which involved a significant number of people”.

‘Phone hacking’

Jurors hearing the case were told on Wednesday that phone hacking took place at the paper and the people in charge knew about it.

Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC told the Old Bailey that the prosecution would show that hacking went on at the now-defunct tabloid, and jurors would have to decide exactly who knew about it.

Opening the case, Mr Edis said: “We say we will be able to show that there was phone hacking at the News of the World. That Glenn Mulcaire did it. That Clive Goodman did it. And that Ian Edmondson did it.

He told the jury it was “quite a simple issue”: “There was phone hacking – who knew?”

Mr Edis explained to the jury of nine women and three men that the case involves three types of allegations arising from an investigation that revealed that the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler was hacked and led to the closure of the News of the World.

Milly Dowler

Explaining the background of the case, he said: “It has arisen out of an investigation which started in January 2011 into phone hacking at the News of the World. That investigation, as you will learn, uncovered things which are now alleged against various people and which you will have to decide.

“The investigation and discoveries resulted, as you know, in the closure of the News of the World.

“If you remember, that came about because of the discovery that the phone of a young murdered girl, Milly Dowler, had been hacked by somebody acting on behalf of the News of the World.

“These events were very big news at the time and some events have been big news since.”

He said the three types of allegations included, first, claims of phone hacking at the News of the World (NotW) between 2000 and 2006 and, secondly, allegations that Sun and NotW journalists paid public officials for information.

It is also alleged that Ms Brooks, along with her former personal assistant Cheryl Carter, conspired to pervert the course of justice by removing seven boxes of material from the News International archive, and that Brooks, with her husband Charles Brooks and former head of security at News International Mark Hanna, committed the same offence by allegedly trying to obstruct the police.

Follow @adavies4 for the latest from the hacking trial.