The royal editor of the News of the World paid a policeman for palace phone books, useful for phone hacking, a court has heard.
Three of the newspaper’s journalists have already pleaded guilty to phone hacking – and the newspaper employed a private investigator who admitted hacking murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s voicemails.
Andrew Edis QC has opened the prosecution’s case at the first trial over Fleet Street’s phone hacking scandal.
He gave the jury a two hour-long summary of the case against the eight accused, with more to come on Thursday.
Former NOTW editor and Downing Street spin doctor Andy Coulson approved the corrupt payments to policeman for secret royal phone books, he said.
NOTW editor Rebekah Brooks approved more than £40,000 ($67,676) in payments to a highly-placed Ministry of Defence official, and later conspired to hide journalists’ notebooks from police.
“There was phone hacking – and quite a bit of it,” Mr Edis said, as he produced a “great long document” which he said would show how NOTW journalists asked private investigator Glenn Mulcaire to gather information for their stories, in return for £100,000 ($169,255) a year.
“Mr Mulcaire was very good indeed at getting the [voicemail] codes for people’s phones and therefore able to get into other people’s messages. It was very useful.”
The information was used to investigate the affairs of people they were interested in writing about – “sometimes to get the story, sometimes to stand the story up”.
Victims of the hacking – dating back to the year 2000, when phone hacking first became a criminal offence – were said to include Paul McCartney, Joanna Lumley, Jude Law, Sienna Miller, former minister John Prescott and singer Will Young.
“There is no justification of any kind for journalists for getting involved in phone hacking,” Mr Edis said. “That is an intrusion into people’s privacy… journalists are no more entitled to break the law than anyone else.”
There was also evidence Mulcaire was interested in hacking phones related to Kate Moss, and nine recordings of former nanny Louise Woodward’s voicemails were found at his address.
The court heard that three former News of the World editors have already pleaded guilty to phone hacking: Neville Thurlbeck, Greg Miskiw and James Weatherup.
Mulcaire had also pleaded guilty, Mr Edis said.
Brooks and Coulson, along with Ian Edmondson and Stuart Kuttner are charged with conspiring to intercept mobile voicemail messages.
Goodman, Coulson and Brooks are charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office, over the payments to officials.
“We’re not dealing with a whistleblower… but someone who has betrayed public trust for money,” Mr Edis said. “It appears public officials have sold these secrets… to the NOTW and The Sun … that is a crime.”
And Brooks’ PA Cheryl Carter, her husband Charles and News International’s security chief Mark Hanna are charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice by trying to conceal documents and computers from police, once the hacking scandal had become public.
Mr Edis said Mrs Brooks and Ms Carter took journalists’ notebooks from the newspaper’s archive, just before the NOTW was closed and the building sealed.
“We will not know what those notebooks contained because they are gone,” he said.
Material wanted by police was cleared out of Brooks’ country home and her London flat, and taken to News International offices.
“Quite a complicated little operation was set up to prevent the police finding all the computers, all the phones, all the iPads, all the documents that the police would have wanted to discover,” he alleged.
Mr Edis said it was up to the jury to decide how much management knew about the phone hacking by NOTW journalists, when Mrs Brooks and Mr Coulson were editing the paper.
"(It) was only publishing once a week... the management’s job was to know what was in the paper,” he said. ”It wasn't War and Peace. It wasn't an enormous document... they must have known."
"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 Edmonson did it.
"Were they asked as part of the conspiracy, given that they were so senior at the paper? They wanted it to happen because they were in charge of the purse-strings ... so you may say that if they didn't stop it, they were part of the conspiracy to carry on."
He told the jury it was "quite a simple issue" - "There was phone hacking - who knew?"
“You will have to decide whether it could happen without the editor knowing."
The trial continues on Thursday.