A tape recording of the News of the World’s investigator Glenn Mulcaire blagging details from a telephone company for use in intercepting voicemail messages was played to an Old Bailey jury.
Mulcaire was heard calling a woman at the O2 phone company to procure private PIN codes which prosecutors allege he used for phone hacking.
“He knows the right things to say, he’s chatty, engaging and she doesn’t seem troubled,” Andrew Edis QC, for the prosecution, told the jury. “The fact of the matter is that in those days it was perfectly possible, it seems, for someone like Mr Mulcaire to get the information that he needed in order to hack phones.”
Jurors were shown three emails between Mulcaire and the news desk editors at the News of the World who were responsible for “tasking” him with chosen targets, Mr Edis said. The emails referred to operations on the former Government minister Tessa Jowell and her husband David Mills, Lord Frederick Windsor, and Joan Hammell, an adviser to Lord Prescott.
Mr Edis alleged that information in the emails provided by Mr Mulcaire amounted to instructions to phone hacking. “That’s what you do. You dial the mailbox and press star and enter the PIN. And then you phone hack,” said the chief prosecuting counsel.
The court was told of the huge sums of money the News of the World chose to pay Mulcaire – despite tight budgetary restraints on the newspaper. He was initially paid £92,000 a year by the News of the World although Rebekah Brooks, the paper’s editor at the time, claimed she had “never heard” of the private investigator “until he was arrested” for phone hacking in 2006, the court was told.
The jury was shown an article from the News of the World in 2002, when Ms Brooks was editor, in which Mr Mulcaire was described as being “part of the News of the World’s special investigations team”. Mr Edis said: “This paper only comes out once a week – you might expect the editor to read it.”
Mr Edis produced emails from Ms Brooks in which she berated staff for overspending. In one email she stated: “Going over budget will not be accepted. It’s a disciplinary situation.” The chief prosecuting counsel said Mulcaire was paid under “special arrangements”.
Stuart Kuttner, the managing editor of the News of the World, personally signed off 221 separate payments to Mr Mulcaire worth a total of £413,527, which he said was 72 per cent of the total money received by the investigator from the newspaper.
The jury was shown an email from Mr Kuttner in which he warned of cutbacks, saying the “balmy days of indulgence are over”. Mr Edis said: “That’s the climate which we say generates the inference that they must have known what they were spending on Mr Mulcaire. The money was going out of the paper. Where was it going, did they care? Yes they did, and these emails show it.”
The jury was also told how Andy Coulson, who succeeded Ms Brooks as editor in 2003, increased Mulcaire’s payments to £2,019 a week (from £1,769.23 a week when Ms Brooks was editor). But the court was told that Mr Coulson became unhappy with the newspaper’s output and sent an email to staff warning that they were failing to match the “unprecedented success” the paper enjoyed in 2004.
“The truth is we’ve not fulfilled our brief this year,” he told senior staff in one email. “We need a hit. Badly.”
Mr Edis said: “You are going to have to form a view about how much pressure there was on the journalists at the News of the World.”