14 Things We've Learned From News Corp.'s Phone Hacking Trial So Far
The trial of former News Corp. employees for their role in the massive phone hacking scandal has already produced several noteworthy revelations, including the hacking of voicemails from the British royal family, a six figure contract between News Corp. and its phone-hacking private investigator, and more alleged phone hacking victims, including actor Jude Law.
Former News International editors and executives Rebekah Brooks,Andy Coulson, and Stuart Kuttner are on trial in England for conspiring to intercept the communications of news figures, celebrities and public officials. All four deny the charges. The trial of another executive, Ian Edmonson, has been postponed due to medical issues.
The hacked voicemails were used as the basis for stories in Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid, which was shuttered in July 2011 after details of the scandal came out. News International is a part of News Corp., the parent company of the Wall Street Journal and a sister company to 21st Century Fox, which owns Fox News.
Among the newsworthy developments from the first two months of the trial, which began on October 29, 2013:
1. An email from News of the World editor Andy Coulson told a subordinate to “do his phone,” a reference to celebrity Calum Best, a phone hacking victim.
2. News International senior executives requested a “more aggressive” policy to purge old emails from the company's internal systems as controversy grew around the phone hacking scandal in November of 2009. A few months later, an internal email stated that News International policy was to eliminate “emails that could be unhelpful in the context of future litigation” where the company was a defendant. A message from News International executive and former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks instructed the IT department to do a “clean sweep” of millions of emails up to January of 2010, which would include emails sent at the height of the company's phone hacking.
3. Hannah Pawlby, an aide to British home secretary Charles Clarke, allegedly had her phone hacked by News International's private investigator as News of the World pursued a false rumor that the two were having an affair.
4. An internal News International memo revealed that the paper was paying private investigator Glenn Mulcaire's firm, Nine Consultancy, £105,000 per year.
5. Recorded private phone messages between Prince William and his then-girlfriend Kate Middleton were seized from Mulcaire.
6. Mulcaire apparently had access to phone calls between Prince Harry and his girlfriend Chelsy Davy, which was used as fodder for stories in News of the World.
7. Prosecutor Andrew Edis told the jury that as the police investigation closed in on her, Brooks and her husband Charlie hid a laptop computer, two iPads and an iPhone with incriminating evidence. Police eventually recovered the devices due to a mix-up. Edis also told the jury that Brooks' personal assistant arranged for the removal of notebooks from the company archives which have not yet been found.
8. At a birthday party in 2003, Brooks and then-Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan allegedly accused each other of hacking voicemails and email messages.
9. The jury learned that Brooks approved a payment of£4,000 to an official in order to obtain a picture of Prince William wearing a bikini.
10. According to Edis, Brooks reportedly openly spoke to friends about hacking celebrity's voicemails, noting that “all you needed was a person's mobile phone number and a factory pin and you could listen to their voicemail.” Brooks also allegedly noted that a story about Paul McCartney's engagement to Heather Mills came about due to hacked voicemails.
11. An analysis of notes from Mulcaire that were apparently sent to former News of the World newsdesk executive Greg Miskiw found 13 that indicated “hacking or preparation to hack,” which led to four news stories published during the editorial tenure of Rebekah Brooks.
12. Whiteboards in Mulcaire's office discovered by police after his arrest contained diagrams of phone numbers and voicemail passwords from cell phone service providers. These diagrams included the names of Rebekah Brooks and tennis champion Venus Williams.
13. Confidential phone directories with the royal family's private phone numbers were found in the home of News of the World's royal editor, Clive Goodman. The directories were found when police arrested Goodman in 2006. He and his editor, Coulson, have been accused of paying off Buckingham Palace police officers in order to obtain the directories.
14. Other phone hacking victims alleged by the prosecutors during opening statements include actor Jude Law, singer Kerry Katona, the son of the Duchess of Cornwall, and members of the royal family's household staff.