News Corp. Phone Hacking Trial Month 5: The Defense Pleads Ignorance

Andy Coulson

The defense continued to present its case in the fifth month of the trial of several News Corp. employees for allegedly compromising the privacy of crime victims, British royalty, entertainers, and politicians.

Former News International editors and executives -- including Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson, and Stuart Kuttner -- are on trial in England for their accused roles in conspiring to hack phones and voicemails to find fodder for news stories. 

On the stand in April, Kuttner denied paying off the investigator who did the phone hacking, while Coulson testified at length about his actions surrounding the disclosure of the hacking.

In March, Brooks admitted that her public statements about the number of phone hacking victims were inaccurate. Brooks testified that she approved possibly illegal payments to military sources, hired a “PR guru” to combat allegations of phone hacking, and that she offered a job to reporter Clive Goodman even after he had been jailed for intercepting phone messages. Goodman testified that he had been made the fall guy for phone hacking and that “lots of people” at News of the World were involved in the behavior.

Charlie Brooks, Rebekah Brooks' husband, denied hiding evidence from the police. The jury also heard that News International wanted a former member of Tony Blair's cabinet to coach Brooks before she appeared at a parliamentary inquiry.

Here are the notable developments from April, the fifth month of the News Corp. phone hacking trial:

  • Former News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner denied that he tried to conceal payments to private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who intercepted voicemail messages and was paid over £100,000 a year by the News of the World.
  • Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson testified that he personally called Rupert Murdoch in 2006 whenNews of the World editor Clive Goodman was arrested for intercepting phone messages from members of the Royal Household. Coulson said that Murdoch “was concerned” and “said the most valuable thing that a newspaper has is the trust of its readers.”
  •  When he resigned as editor of News of the World in 2007 after Goodman was convicted of phone hacking, Coulson reportedly received a £600,000 pay day from News Corp.
  • Coulson said that they did not know that the phone of murdered teenager Milly Dowler had been hacked by investigators working for News of the World. The phone hacking scandal exploded in the international media after the Guardian reported in 2011 that News of the World had hacked Dowler's voicemail in search of possible exclusives after her disappearance.
  • Coulson testified that he did not know intercepting voicemails was illegal, but ordered reporters to stop doing it because it was an invasion of privacy. He also said he should have done more to stop the practice, but “it doesn't mean I was party to it.”
  •  Coulson responded to earlier testimony that he told someone to “do his phone,” claiming that it was not an order to hack someone's telephone, but a request to inspect the phone bill of a News of the World staffer suspected of leaking news stories.
  • He also said that he left his job as communications director to Prime Minister David Cameron as as a result of the phone hacking scandal becoming public.
  • Coulson said that he regretted the decision to publish information about an extramarital affair involving British Home Secretary David Blunkett, which led to Blunkett's resignation from his position. He also admitted that he heard private voicemails from Blunkett disclosing the affair. 
  • Coulson said he “rubber-stamped” a payment to Goodman which was earmarked for a royal policeman in exchange for a telephone directory with the home phone numbers for members of the royal family, even though he knew such payments were possibly illegal.
  • Coulson denied earlier testimony from Goodman that he had instructed Goodman to say he was operating solely as a “lone wolf” involved in phone hacking.
  • Sara Payne, mother of murder victim Sarah Payne, testified as a character witness in favor of Rebekah Brooks and the News of the World, and praised them for pushing a campaign in favor of harsher laws against sex offenders.
  •  A friend called as a character witness for Brooks' husband, Charlie Brooks, testified that he was “capable of being completely daft” and once drank a pint of dishwashing liquid to cure a hangover. Brooks is accused of assisting his wife in covering up evidence of phone hacking.