Geoffrey CoxNews International gave police investigating alleged misconduct by their staff access to over 23 million internal emails a court was told yestertoday.

Geoffrey Cox QC, who is defending the Sun’s deputy editor Geoffrey Webster told a jury at London’s Old Bailey that the millions of emails were uploaded to a database and police then carried out a “keyword” search. Inquiry terms used included; “police officer,” “prison officer,” “bung,” “cop,” and “screw.”

The email evidence came at the trial of Webster, three other senior staff from the Sun, an army officer and his wife all of whom are facing charges related to alleged payments to public officials for confidential information, including details of Princes William and Harry’s time at Sandhurst military academy.

After defence counsel formally closed their case the presiding judge, Mr Justice Saunders gave the jury legal directions on how they should look at the evidence they have heard over the last eight weeks. He began by telling them to disregard some of the testimony given by the former SAS soldier and best-selling author known as “Andy McNab,” as he had expressed his opinion on how “serious” the selling of information was and this was not allowed in evidence. “I should have stopped him,” the judge said.

The Judge also gave the jury instructions about how they should deal with the defendants’ argument that what they published was in the “public interest.” The judge said that the public interest standard was not met simply by “printing something the public were interested in, and instead had to be either a matter that the public ought to know about or would stimulate useful debate on a matter of public concern”.

While the press, the judge said, was “an important part of our democracy,” he added “It is not above the law.” He also said that it was clear that some of the information published was about people’s private lives and the jury would have to consider if their right to privacy was outweighed by the public interest.

In the dock alongside Webster are Sun Royal editor Duncan Larcombe, deputy editor Geoffrey Webster, executive editor Fergus Shanahan, chief reporter John Kay, former army officer John Hardy and his wife Claire. Closing speeches are expected to occupy the rest of the week with the judge summing up the case next Monday.

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