Day 101, Part 1: Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson were talented, clever, ambitious individuals who told themselves it didn’t matter whether or not they were breaking the law because they “just wanted the story”, prosecuting counsel Andrew Edis, QC, told the phone hacking trial today.
Beginning his closing speech at the Old Bailey, Mr Edis suggested that the defendants’ claims that they did not know about hacking at the News of the World was not credible because of the £105,000 contract given to hacker Glenn Mulcaire and the thousands of hacking calls revealed by phone records.
The prosecutor told the jury that the case was not an attack on a free press, which he accepted was “an essential part of the protection of a free society”; but he added that the “ultimate protection” of a democratic society was the rule of law.
Mr Edis said that what had gone on at the News of the World between 2000 and 2006 was only shown intermittently by the surviving evidence, which he likened to the illumination of a light being suddenly switched on.
He referred to the phone records which showed that between February and April 2005 and between December 2005 and August 2006 there were 1,450 “hacking calls” from Mulcaire’s phones to voicemail numbers – in just 191 days – while during 535 days 4,714 hacking calls were made from News International phones to voicemails numbers, equivalent to “nine hacks a day”.
He told the jury: “What it amounts to is that there was an awful lot of phone hacking going on at the News of the World in 2005 and 2006.”
He raised as another illuminating piece of evidence the recording made by Home Secretary David Blunkett of a meeting with Mr Coulson at which the NoW editor asked him about an affair which the paper had stumbled across from phone hacking.
Referring to Mrs Brooks, Mr Coulson and managing editor Stuart Kuttner’s claims not to have known about the “industrial scale” hacking at the paper, Mr Edis asked: “Are these people you’re trying incompetent?”
“Are they so unconcerned about what was happening on their watch that they didn’t notice: is that it?”
He said that none of the character witnesses produced by the three defendants had described them as “useless”; to the contrary “they were full of praise for their professional ability.”
Mr Edis said: “It’s a little like you had a murder case, and three people had spent a week in the house where the body was, and they came out and told the police: ‘We never smelled anything. We were in the kitchen, or in the attic.”
The News of the World was “not an enormous organisation”, certainly not at the top level and the three defendants were “right at the top of the pyramid.”
Mr Edis asked the jury:
“Is this a case where you are young, inexperienced, talented, ambitious, clever and charming people, who have been placed in a position of great power and have for a mixture of those reasons – ambition, lack of experience perhaps, have allowed themselves in the excitement of the chase to tell themselves that it doesn’t mater if what you are doing is lawful or not? You just want the story.”
Mrs Brooks, Mr Coulson, and Mr Kuttner deny conspiring to intercept voicemails. The case continues.