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Hacking 'was rational but illegal'
Journalists at the News of the World used phone hacking as a "perfectly rational but entirely illegal" way of checking stories, jurors heard today.
Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC told the Old Bailey that the tabloid would receive a tip-off about a story, and then use surveillance and phone hacking to check whether it was true before confronting those involved.
He said the prosecution was not suggesting every story was obtained, or investigated, by phone hacking, but that journalists used it as part of trying to stand a story up.
Alleged targets of the phone hacking included former home secretary Charles Clarke, actors Jude Law and Sienna Miller, and former aide to Prince William and Prince Harry Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, the jury heard. The list also included Lord Archer, cook Delia Smith, and model Abi Titmuss.
Mr Edis said: "It was a perfectly rational but entirely illegal system."
The court heard that the newspaper was tipped off about an alleged affair between Mr Clarke and his assistant Hannah Pawlby, and journalists watched her home and accessed her voicemails.
Although the rumour turned out to be untrue and the paper was "chasing shadows", Mr Edis said it showed the system the tabloid would use.
He said: "The prosecution suggests that Mr Coulson, who is now the editor of the News of the World (NotW), he is not the man who stands outside people's houses hoping to catch them out, he is the man who likes to put the story to people to see what they will say."
He said the NotW used three ways to investigate stories - phone hacking, surveillance, and confrontation.
"The editor is personally involved in the third. Obviously he knows about the second, surveillance, he must do. What about the first? Does he know about phone hacking? He says he doesn't, we say 'Oh yes, he did'."
Mr Edis said phone hacking was sometimes used in a "random" way.
He told the jury that a hairdresser called Laura Rooney had her phone hacked, even though she had no connection with England striker Wayne.
He said: "Laura Rooney was phone-hacked because they thought she was related to Wayne Rooney, who was also phone-hacked. She wasn't, she was not related to Wayne Rooney and has nothing to do with him.
"That just shows the slightly random way that this was used. She is a hairdresser, she doesn't know Wayne Rooney."
The prosecutor told the jury that much of the hacking carried out by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire was tasked by former news editor Ian Edmondson, and said: "The prosecution say frankly that the evidence against Mr Ian Edmondson is absolutely overwhelming.
"He was quite clearly guilty, we say, of count one. You will have to decide in the end whether its right or it's not.
"You know that our case is that all four defendants who we are trying on count one are guilty, for reasons I have attempted to establish."
He said the jury would have to give "appropriate scrutiny" to the evidence to decide the case for each one.
As part of his prosecution opening yesterday, Mr Edis revealed that Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson had an affair for at least six years, thought to be from 1998 to 2004, as he used it to demonstrate how close they were.
The court heard extracts from a heartfelt letter sent by Brooks to her then deputy editor Coulson in February 2004, said to have been written after he tried to end their relationship, in which she declared her love for him.
Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire; Coulson, also 45, from Charing in Kent; former NotW head of news Edmondson, 44, from Raynes Park, south west London; and the tabloid's ex-managing editor Stuart Kuttner, 73, from Woodford Green, Essex, all deny conspiring with others to hack phones between October 3 2000 and August 9 2006.
Brooks is also accused of two counts of conspiring with others to commit misconduct in public office - one between January 1 2004 and January 31 2012 and the other between February 9 2006 and October 16 2008 - linked to alleged inappropriate payments to public officials.
Coulson is also facing two allegations that he conspired with former royal editor Clive Goodman, 56, from Addlestone in Surrey, and other unknown people to commit misconduct in public office - between August 31 2002 and January 31 2003, and between January 31 and June 3 2005.
It is claimed that Goodman paid palace policemen for copies of royal phone directories - allegedly authorised by Coulson - to get information on members of the Royal Family.
Brooks also faces two allegations of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice - one with her former personal assistant Cheryl Carter, 49, from Chelmsford in Essex, between July 6 and 9 2011; and a second with her husband, Charles Brooks, and former head of security at News International, Mark Hanna, and others between July 15 and July 19 2011.
The court heard that after Goodman was sacked by News International after he was jailed for phone hacking in 2007, the media giant asked legal firm Harbottle and Lewis to look at internal emails "selected by News International staff".
Mr Edis said: "The idea was that the solicitor would produce an independent evaluation of the evidence which showed that phone hacking was confined to Clive Goodman and didn't go any further within the NotW."
He said that News International had been given "effectively a clean bill of health", but that jurors do not have to decide whether that was right or not.
Prosecutors claim that the documents show that Goodman was involved in phone hacking earlier than his previous conviction suggests.
Jurors were told that it is alleged that Goodman paid for two copies of a Royal telephone directory from palace police officers.
A total of 15 copies of the book were found in his home when it was searched in 2006, and of those it is claimed that another two belonged to police but were not necessarily sold by officers, the court heard.
One had an officer's fingerprint on it while another had an officer's handwriting on it.