LONDON: Top executives at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World “must have known” about phone hacking, which was so widespread that three senior news editors have admitted their involvement, British prosecutors said on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).
They also alleged that former Murdoch protegee and ex-News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks authorised large sums to be paid to public officials for information while she edited the tabloid’s sister daily, the top-selling Sun.
The long-awaited trial is the first time that criminal charges have been put to alleged key players in the hacking scandal, which sent shockwaves through the British establishment.
Brooks, 45, is among eight defendants facing charges ranging from phone hacking to bribing officials and concealing evidence. All the defendants deny the allegations against them.
She took detailed notes as she sat in the glass-fronted dock next to Andy Coulson, her successor as editor of the News of the World who went on to be communications chief for Prime Minister David Cameron.
Opening the prosecution case at London’s Old Bailey court, lawyer Andrew Edis said there was a wealth of evidence that hacking was widespread at the News of the World.
In a surprise announcement, he revealed that three former newsdesk editors—Greg Miskiw, Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup—had all pleaded guilty ahead of the trial to conspiring to illegally access voicemails.
While this did not necessarily implicate Brooks and Coulson, Edis said the guilty pleas revealed that “there was a conspiracy which involved a significant number of people, and it was quite a substantial conspiracy.”
“And that may help you to decide now,” he told the jury. “Because those names, they knew. So who else knew?”
He argued that Brooks and Coulson, along with the paper’s former managing editor, Stuart Kuttner, must have known about hacking, not least because they controlled the budget, and obtaining hacked information cost a lot of money.
Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who has previously been jailed for phone hacking, was on a contract worth an estimated £100,000 (116,000 euros, $160,000) a year to dig up stories for the News of the World.