Prosecution says former editor of News of the World demanded that his journalists illegally target celebrities
Andy Coulson sanctioned hacking the phones of royal advisers to Prince Harry, demanded that his journalists illegally target celebrities, and authorised payments to sources he believed were police officers, the prosecution said as the trial of the former editor of the News of the World and seven others entered its third day.
Prosecuting counsel, Andrew Edis QC, added that Coulson had been warned he could face criminal charges for paying police to leak information, that he was directly involved in discussing special payments for the hacking of phone messages, and that in one instance ordered his news editor by email to verify a tip about TV celebrity Calum Best with the instruction: "Do his phone."
The crown argued that the former tabloid editor was part of a phone-hacking strategy at the now closed Sunday tabloid which was "a totally rational but entirely illegal system". Edis said phone hacking was well known to those working for the paper: "There aren't any secrets. Why would there be? They are all working as a team – and he's the boss."
Andy Coulson edited the News of the World from 2003 to 2007. After his departure from the newspaper, he became David Cameron's director of communications, eventually working in No 10. On Thursday, the jury in the high-profile trial also heard that he had had a six-year affair with Rebekah Brooks, his predecessor as editor of the News of the World, who is on trial with him.
According to Edis, Coulson's former royal editor, Clive Goodman, had recently given police access to a file of old emails which, it is claimed, show that Goodman's hacking of royal phones was "officially sanctioned" by senior managers including Coulson. The file included the transcript of a message left by Prince Harry, calling from Sandhurst military academy to ask his private secretary to help him write an essay.
Coulson denies charges of conspiring to intercept voicemail messages and to commit misconduct in public office. Goodman, who has been charged with conspiring to commit misconduct in public office, also denies the charge.
Continuing the crown's opening statement at the Old Bailey, Edis showed the jury emails that were allegedly exchanged when Goodman asked Coulson to approve payments to Palace police officers.
On 24 January 2003, Goodman wrote to complain that he had been having "a heck of a time" getting cash payments authorised for a "royal policeman" at St James's Palace who was offering to sell a directory of royal phone numbers: "These people will not be paid in anything other than cash because if they are discovered selling stuff to us, they will end up on criminal charges, as could we."
Three minutes later, Coulson replied: "This is fine." He queried whether they had not already recently bought the directory. Goodman explained: "This is the harder-to-get one which has the Queen's direct lines to her family in it."
The jury was told that Goodman had then produced what he himself described as "a deliberately cryptic credit payment form" which led to £1,000 in cash being paid to a source who was recorded internally under the false name David Farrish and who has not been identified.
Two years later, on 14 May 2005, Goodman wrote again to Coulson asking him to authorise payment of £1,000 "to one of our Palace cops" for a new version of the same royal phone book. Goodman explained: "It is a very risky document for him to nick ... It's one of our normal cash contribution-only players."
Edis told the jury that it was clear "he is paying a policeman to commit a crime". Internal accounts showed that £1,000 in cash was then paid under the heading "confidential research assistance" to a source recorded internally under the false name "Anderson", whose real name has not been found. The jury were told that the emails presented "the clearest possible evidence of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office" and also that they were evidence in relation to phone hacking. Edis showed the jury handwritten notes kept by the News of the World's specialist hacker, Glenn Mulcaire, which suggested that he had used numbers from royal phone directories to listen to voicemail left for members of the royal household, including Sir Michael Peat, private secretary to the Prince of Wales.
Edis told the court that Goodman had asked for special payments to be made to Mulcaire for hacking the royal household and that Coulson in December 2005 had agreed to pay the hacker a weekly retainer of £500 in addition to his existing contract. However, at the end of January 2006, under pressure to cut spending, Coulson had changed his mind. On 3 February, Goodman emailed his editor, pleading to preserve "Matey's weekly payment".
Goodman said the arrangement had produced a list of stories, adding: "A few weeks ago you asked me to find new ways of getting into the family especially William and Harry. I came up with this. It is safe, productive and cost-effective. I'm confident it will become a big story-goldmine if we let it run just a little longer."
Coulson had replied with a single line: "I'm sorry it has to go." Edis told the jury it was significant that the editor had not had to ask for any explanation about Goodman's source. It was, he said, "absolutely clear that Mr Coulson knows what he is talking about." Separately, Edis showed the jury timelines constructed from internal emails and Mulcaire's notes, detailing the hacking of targets including the former Labour minister Charles Clarke, Sir Paul McCartney, the ex-MP Mark Oaten, and Kerry Katona.
In the case of George Best's son Calum, the news editor, Ian Edmondson, emailed Coulson about fears that there might be a leak from inside the newspaper which would allow Calum Best to find out about the story they were planning. Coulson replied: "Do his phone."
Prosecutors disclosed for the first time that Clive Goodman had handed them a file of internal emails which he had downloaded from the News of the World's system following his arrest for phone hacking in August 2006 in an attempt to gather evidence that his own hacking had been "officially sanctioned".
One email included the transcript of a long voice message left by Prince Harry on the phone of his private secretary, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, pleading for help with an essay he had to write about the Iranian embassy siege.
Goodman then drafted a story which he sent to Coulson, making no reference to the hacked voicemail but saying: "As we know, it's 100% fact."
The jury was told that, as editor of the Sun, Rebekah Brooks had exchanged emails with a reporter in which she allegedly agreed to pay £4,000 to a serving member of the armed forces for a photograph of Prince William wearing a bikini and a Hawaiian shirt. She had also used email to authorise a total of £40,000 of payments to a senior Ministry of Defence official.
Brooks denies charges of hacking, conspiring to make corrupt payments to public officials, and concealing evidence.
The trial continues on Monday.