UK

Neil Wallis, ex-NoW deputy editor, 'knew about phone hacking'

Former executive editor of the former British newspaper the News of the World, Neil Wallis, arrives at the Old Bailey in London on June 8, 2015
Image caption Mr Wallis arriving at London's Old Bailey for the start of his trial

It is "inconceivable" that former News of the World senior editor Neil Wallis did not know about phone hacking at the paper, an Old Bailey jury has heard.

Mr Wallis is on trial accused of conspiracy to hack voicemail messages.

Prosecutors said Mr Wallis, who was deputy editor from 2003 to 2007, was not accused of hacking any phones himself, but he "knew" it was being done and "agreed" to it.

Mr Wallis, 64, of Chiswick, west London, denies the charges.

The Sunday tabloid closed in July 2011 after allegations about phone hacking surfaced.

Mr Wallis was deputy to former NoW editor Andy Coulson who, the jury was told, was convicted in the first hacking trial last year. His predecessor, Rebekah Brooks, was cleared of conspiring to intercept messages.

'Large scale'

A number of other senior staff, including features editor Jules Stenson, have already pleaded guilty to the same charge, prosecutor Julian Christopher QC told the jury.

He said: "The practice was so widespread at the NoW that it is inconceivable that the editor above him, Coulson, should have been involved, and those below him should have been involved, without him also knowing about it and being involved."

There was "no dispute that hacking was going on, and going on on a large scale", he said.

He said a phone-hacking journalist would recount one occasion when Mr Wallis and Coulson were both played a taped voicemail recording setting a story in motion.

And Mr Wallis was included in a number of emails which referred "obliquely" to hacking, the prosecutor said, adding: "All those involved in the email plainly knew what was being referred to."

The court heard former NoW journalist Dan Evans, who previously pleaded guilty to phone hacking, will give evidence for the prosecution.

Mr Christopher said: "He will be able to provide a snapshot of what was taking place at the NoW under the stewardship of Andy Coulson at the top - and his deputy Mr Wallis."

But the jury was warned to treat the evidence from Evans - who received a suspended prison sentence for hacking, perverting the course of justice and paying a public official for information - "with care" because he had co-operated with the authorities to "secure a lesser sentence".

'Screw phones'

The court heard attempts to recruit Evans from the Sunday Mirror began at a meeting in 2004. At a second meeting, at a bar in Wapping, he was introduced to Mr Wallis.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The final edition of the News of the World was published in July 2011

Mr Christopher told the jury that Mr Wallis asked Evans: "I know you can screw phones, what else can you do?"

The jury heard Evans again declined to join the paper but did so in January 2005 and "no time was wasted" in tasking him to hack phones.

Stenson sent him a 27-page email containing the mobile numbers of hundreds of celebrities.

The jury was taken through documents revealing the names of some those targeted by Evans.

They included actress Sienna Miller, designer Kelly Hoppen, Labour politician Tessa Jowell and her husband David Mills, entertainer Cilla Black and supermodel Kate Moss.

'Hi, it's me'

The jury was also told of hacking at the NoW before Evans joined the paper. One of those victims was a married woman who was having an affair with former home secretary David Blunkett.

Five microcassettes of voicemail messages left on the mobile phone of Mr Blunkett's lover were found in the safe of NoW lawyer Tom Crone, the court heard.

The prosecutor said Mr Wallis appeared to be "involved" in the story about Mr Blunkett, telling the jury of a series of phone calls between Coulson and his deputy at the time.

A story pursued by Evans at the NoW was Sienna Miller's relationship with actor Jude Law.

The jury was told Evans will claim he played Coulson and Mr Wallis a recording of a hacked message Ms Miller left on James Bond actor Daniel Craig's phone in May 2005.

The court heard the message from Ms Miller to Mr Craig saying "Hi, it's me. I can't speak, I'm at the Groucho with Jude. I love you", appeared to confirm rumours the stars were having an affair.

Mr Wallis, after hearing the message, was said by the prosecutor to have taken Evans by the arm and told him, "You're a company man now, Dan."

Mr Christopher said later that Mr Wallis was allegedly emailed the draft of a story about Prince Harry asking for help with an essay during his time as a Sandhurst recruit.

He added that royal reporter Clive Goodman gained the information from hacking the phone of Prince Harry's private secretary Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton and had said in the email to Mr Wallis, "As we know, it's 100% fact."