Q&A: Phone-hacking trial
What is the hacking trial?
The phone-hacking trial is the prosecution of seven people at London's Old Bailey in relation to criminal allegations that emerged from the investigation into the News of the World newspaper before its 2011 closure. Some of the allegations in the trial also concern alleged activity at its sister newspaper, the Sun.
Only part of the trial is about phone-hacking. Some of the defendants face allegations of illegal payments to public officials and, separately, allegations of attempts to hide potential evidence.
Why did the News of the World close?
In July 2011, the 168-year old Sunday newspaper was shut down by its parent company, News International. This happened after it emerged that in 2002 the tabloid had instructed a private investigator to "hack", or intercept, voicemails left on the mobile phone of Milly Dowler, a teenager from Surrey who was abducted and murdered.
What is phone hacking?
It involved exploiting the fact that mobile phone operators gave customers default Pin codes to access their voicemail by either using another phone or dialling a separate number.
There have been many allegations of the News of the World hacking celebrities and politicians. This trial concerns events between 2000 and 2006.
Who is on trial?
Rebekah Brooks is the former editor of the News of the World and the Sun and also the former chief executive of their parent company, News International.
Andy Coulson was her successor at the News of the World who went on to become the director of communications for Prime Minister David Cameron.
Stuart Kuttner was the managing editor of the News of the World. All three are accused of conspiracy to intercept voicemails, which they deny.
The fourth journalist is Clive Goodman. He is accused, alongside Andy Coulson, of two counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office. Rebekah Brooks also faces one count of the same offence, but relating to a different allegation.
Ms Brooks is further charged with two counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by allegedly hiding evidence from the police. Her former personal assistant, Cheryl Carter, is also accused of the same offence in relation to the first of those allegations. Ms Brooks’ husband, Charlie Brooks, and News International’s head of security, Mark Hanna, are accused on the second count.
All the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges before the trial began. The trial judge is Mr Justice Saunders.
Ian Edmondson - a former news editor at the News of the World - had originally been a defendant in the trial. But on 12 December, the judge told the jury he was no longer fit to stand trial. Mr Edmondson had denied conspiracy to intercept voicemails. He will be tried by a different jury at a later date.
Has anyone already been prosecuted?
In 2007, Glenn Mulcaire and Clive Goodman, the News of the World’s then royal editor, were jailed after pleading guilty to intercepting voicemails. That prosecution concerned allegations relating to the journalist’s attempts to get stories relating to the royal household. Mulcaire also admitted targeting the phones of a number of famous people.
In relation to this trial, Mulcaire has admitted conspiracy to hack phones, included targeting Milly Dowler’s mobile.
Greg Miskiw, James Weatherup and Neville Thurlbeck, former news editors at the News of the World, have also admitted being part of a phone-hacking conspiracy with Glenn Mulcaire.
What is the prosecution case?
The jury has heard that private investigator Glenn Mulcaire would be “tasked” to target a particular mobile phone number to acquire voicemails and report back to the news desk. Mulcaire kept detailed notes of each operation that he carried out, including the target and who had commissioned him. At one point he was being paid £100,000 a year.
The case against Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson is that they oversaw a conspiracy to hack mobile phones because they must have known how stories were being acquired and what they were paying for them. Stuart Kuttner is accused of overseeing payments.
What about the other charges?
Andy Coulson and Clive Goodman are accused of conspiring to pay palace policemen for copies of a royal household directory. They allegedly wanted the book because it contained information that would be useful for phone-hacking.
Rebekah Brooks moved to the Sun in early 2003 and the prosecution alleges that she agreed to pay officials for confidential information. One individual at the Ministry of Defence earned £40,000. The prosecution’s case is that the officials receiving payments were not whistleblowers and that all payments were unlawful.
The final set of charges concern the end of Ms Brooks’ time at News International in July 2011. She is accused, along with Cheryl Carter, of retrieving boxes of notebooks from the News International archive relating to her time as editor of the News of the World and the Sun. She is also accused, along with her husband Charlie and NI head of security Mark Hanna, of hiding personal computers from the police.
What is the defence case?
The prosecution has finished setting out its evidence, and the case for the defendants is now being heard. This is expected to continue until May, and once it is complete the jury will retire to consider its verdicts.
Andy Coulson’s counsel made a relatively rare opening statement on his client’s behalf. He said Mr Coulson accepted that something went badly wrong at the News of the World during his time as editor - but the prosecution’s interpretation and conclusions were wrong. The jury heard that although Mr Coulson wished he had made some different decisions, he did not commit the crimes he is accused of - and he will go into the witness box to put his side of the story.