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Andy Coulson told news editor to 'do Calum Best's phone', court hears

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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. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


Los Angeles airport shooting: one dead and several injured – live

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• Gunman opened fire at terminal 3 security checkpoint
• One security agent died, others wounded
• Officers tracked suspect 'deep' into airport 
• Suspect now in custody and area is secured
Read our latest news story


Police drop inquiries into Grant Shapps' former firm

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Police close assessment into activities of Tory chairman's software company How To Corp after complaint from Labour MP

Police have dropped their inquiries into Grant Shapps, the Conservative party chairman, saying legal advice initially concluded his former firm's sale of software "may constitute an offence of fraud" but they decided not to launch a criminal investigation following a full assessment.

The Metropolitan Police (MPS) looked into the activities of How To Corp, which was founded by Shapps and his wife in 2005, after receiving a complaint from Steve McCabe, a Labour MP. The force wrote to Shapps two weeks ago to tell him that the matter is now closed, having been considered by its special enquiry team.

Michael Duthie, commander of homicide and serious crime, wrote in the letter: "Legal advice was sought which concluded that the selling of the software may constitute an offence of fraud, amongst others. However, upon the conclusion of the assessment process the MPS have decided not to instigate a criminal investigation and have now closed this matter."

Duthie added that he "must advise" Shapps that Google, the Federation Against Software Theft, the Intellectual Property Office and the Publishers Association were all contacted in the course of the assessment and made aware of the nature of the allegation.

The police also wrote to McCabe thanking him for providing them with information, saying it was "useful but did not overcome evidential barriers that we face".

The letter to McCabe added: "Please be assured that we have conducted a thorough and proportionate assessment and have consulted with a number of organisations, such as the Intellectual Property Office and the Publishers Association, before making this decision."

Asked about it by Channel 4 News, Shapps said the letter "makes it absolutely clear, there is absolutely nothing here" and said he had been subject to Labour smears. "I think the MP who wasted police time really has questions to answer," Shapps said.

A Conservative source said none of the organisations mentioned in the letter has contacted Shapps, adding this is "just another example of Labour wasting police time trying to smear an individual".

However, Jon Ashworth, a Labour MP, demanded a full explanation from the police about why they have not decided to prosecute. He said David Cameron should also explain "why he thinks Grant Shapps is a suitable person to hold such a senior position" in the Conservative party.

"It is an extraordinary revelation that the chairman of the Conservative party was linked to business activities that 'may constitute an offence of fraud'," he added.

How To Corp's website was dismantled last year, but before that, it sold software that adds to a website's advertising revenue by copying other people's content. The Guardian first revealed that How To Corp's premier product – a $497 (£313) software package, TrafficPaymaster – created web pages by "spinning and scraping" content and sought to attract advertising, in contravention of Google's code of conduct.

Going under the name Michael Green and casting himself as an internet marketing guru, Shapps claimed in 2007 that audiences could "make $20,000 in 20 days guaranteed or your money back" – if they spent $200 buying his bespoke software. The picture used to illustrate Michael Green on the site is that of a model that can be brought for generic use on websites for as little as $125. In 2008, Shapps transferred his share of the company to his wife, Belinda, and the Tory chairman has said he did not have anything to do with the firm after this point.

Labour's Steve McCabe complained about the company to Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, and the Metropolitan Police in autumn last year, asking them to determine whether an offence had been committed under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1998 which also "criminalises the communication of copyrighted works in the course of a business".He also invited prosecutors to consider whether the firm is "obtaining, or attempting to obtain, a pecuniary advantage by deception has been committed".

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: "The allegation has now been fully assessed and there will be no further action by police. We're not prepared to discuss the matter further." © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


More Republicans support confederate flags than rainbow flags

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Rainbow flag, blue skies
And this is why we need the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, folks:
GOP voters think by a 29 point margin that it's more appropriate for high schoolers to wear confederate flags to school than gay pride ones
That's right, Republicans are substantially more likely to think that a flag originating in defense of slavery and revitalized during the fight to keep Jim Crow is appropriate high school attire than is a flag celebrating diversity and love. This news comes as we wait to...

Consumer Reports destroys 'rate shock' horror story

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Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus waits for the start of the U.S. vice presidential debate between Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Danville, Kentucky, October 11, 2012. REUTERS/John G
Better luck next time, buckaroo.
Reince Priebus apparently hasn't been watching his Fox News.
.@DWSTweets: what are u going to tell this Floridian whose rates are 10 TIMES higher under #ObamaCare?
He's way behind. Greta Van Susteren already debunked that story. If Reince missed that, he can check out that bastion of liberal partisanship, Consumer Reports, which also destroys that story. They take a look at the Florida woman's cancelled health policy and compare...

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