Rebekah Brooks, the former head of News Corp. (NWSA:US)’s U.K. unit, and two other editors oversaw a “rotten state of affairs” at tabloids where voice mails were hacked and illegal payments made to public officials in pursuit of stories, prosecutors said.
Brooks, Andy Coulson and Stuart Kuttner “spent every day of their working week at the News of the World. Their office was right next to the news desk where this was being” done, Andrew Edis, the lead prosecutor, said in court in London today in a speech summing up his case. “The stories were ending up in their newspaper. The money that was being paid was coming from their budgets.”
Coulson, an ex-editor of the weekly News of the World, Kuttner, the former managing editor, and Brooks, 45, are among seven people on trial for wrongdoing at News Corp.’s U.K. newspapers.
“You have to decide whether these senior figures knew of the rotten state of affairs that permeated that organization,” Edis said as the seven-month-old trial entered its closing stages. The trial has delved into the private lives of the defendants and those of the tabloid’s targets, including celebrities, politicians and members of the royal family.
News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch closed the weekly News of the World in 2011 following the scandal caused by the discovery that journalists at the tabloid had listened to messages on the phone of a murdered teenager. Brooks edited the newspaper and the daily Sun before becoming head of the company’s U.K. unit.
The 46-year-old Coulson, who became a media adviser to David Cameron in 2007, and Brooks both approved bribes to public officials during their tenures, prosecutors said. Kuttner, 74, is accused of phone hacking. The newspaper’s one-time royal reporter, Clive Goodman, 56, is charged with conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office.
“Are they so careless and so unconscious about what is happening” on their watch that “they didn’t notice?” Edis said to the jury.
“Is this a case of young, inexperienced, talented, ambitious, clever, charming people who have been placed in positions of great power and for a mixture of those reasons, ambition, inexperience allowed themselves in the excitement of the chase to tell themselves it does not matter if it is lawful or not, we just want the story,” Edis said.
Brooks’s husband, Charlie, her former assistant Cheryl Carter, and the U.K. unit’s former head of security, Mark Hanna, also face charges of conspiring to pervert the course of justice. All seven have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Lawyers for the defendants are scheduled to argue their case over the next month.
Ex-News of the World Chief Reporter Neville Thurlbeck and former Assistant Editors Greg Miskiw and James Weatherup pleaded guilty last year to charges they conspired to hack phones, Edis said. Glenn Mulcaire, the private detective who conducted much of the phone hacking at the tabloid, has also pleaded guilty to interception charges.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jeremy Hodges in London at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at email@example.com Lindsay Fortado, Eddie Buckle