Hacking trial: mitigation
Coulson: 'no one in the industry thought listening to voicemails was illegal'
Tuesday 01 July, 2014 The News of the World had a genuine social mission and political impact, with "many undiluted positives" including important investigations, tackling difficult social issues and key political stories, Andy Coulson's barrister told Mr Justice Saunders at the Old Bailey today.
Timothy Lansdale QC accused the prosecuting counsel Andrew Edis QC of sneering at good journalists and said he risked smearing everyone who worked at the News of the World by describing it as a thoroughly criminal enterprise. The claim that hackers had corrupted the paper was a sweeping, exaggerated and unjustified characterisation.
No one in the newspaper industry between 2000 and 2005 seemed to have realised that intercepting of voicemail messages was illegal, Lansdale said: "It is a great pity it was not appreciated at the time."
The barrister urged the judge to disregard other defendants who told the court yesterday that Coulson had controlled and directed the hacking operation. They had "motive", he said. Arguing against the maximum two-year sentence, he contended that evidence that Coulson and others were not knowingly breaking the law was a mitigating factor, and that there was no need for a deterrent element.
Coulson had become a lightning conductor for the furore, with media vendettas and party politics, Lansdale said: "Agendas are being pursued, and will continue to be pursued". But he was a man of real talent who should be allowed to return to society to make a contribution as soon as possible
The political journalist Matthew d'Ancona, who was called as a character witness, told the court that Coulson was the most straightforward and honest director of communications he had come across and had swiftly become an important and highly trusted member of David Cameron's inner circle. Other journalists admired the appointment and assumed that if the Conservatives won the next election Coulson would have been very senior within the government.
Mulcaire 'thought police had given their blessing to hacking of Milly's phone'
Glenn Mulcaire offered last year to give evidence for the prosecution in the hacking trial, his barrister told the mitigation hearing at the Old Bailey this afternoon.
Gavin Millar QC said that the private detective had believed the hacking of
Milly Dowler's phone had the blessing of Surrey police because the intention was to help to find the girl. It was one of a number of special projects between 2000 and 2003 to help the police, rather than to get stories
Millar also said that the police had been aware of Mulcaire's activities - including questioning him about hacking Tessa Jowell and John Prescott - as a result of the investigation that ended in him going to jail in 2007, but they chose not to press further charges. Millar said the prison sentence then and public vilification meant he had been punished enough.
Since his release he had been in and out of bankruptcy and was being taken to court by creditors who wanted to force him to sell his home. He was seen as the personification of the hacking scandal, but had been at the "bottom of the food chain" and had not instigated any interceptions.
Thurlbeck: 'phone hacking was industry wide and Kuttner knew all about it'
Hacking voicemails was widespread in the newspaper industry and corporate practice at the News of the World, Neville Thurlbeck's barrister told the court.
Hugh Davies QC said that Andy Coulson was directly involved and in control throughout the hacking of David Blunkett's phone, and had not, as he told the court during the trial, told Thurlbeck to stop.
Davies also said that Thurlbeck was part of a substantial team, directed by Coulson and Stuart Kuttner, working on the Milly Dowler story. It was Coulson's decision to send a team to Telford, hoping to find Milly, and he and Kuttner had decided not to tell the Surrey police who were investigating the teenager's disappearance.
Listening to her voicemails was primarily for journalistic reasons, but "looking for Milly was morally less wicked".
Davies said that Coulson, Kuttner, another executive and a News International lawyer all knew about phone hacking. Kuttner was cleared last Tuesday of conspiracy to intercept telephones. The other executive and lawyer cannot be named.
Davies said that Thurlbeck, who was the News of the World's chief reporter, was no apologist for what had occurred. He did not introduce hacking to the paper, recruit Mulcaire or have the executive roles of Greg Miskiw or James Weatherup.
He thought that phone hacking was against the PCC and News of the World codes of practice, but that it was a civil breach that could be justified in the public interest. The intention was not to cause distress, but to increase circulation in a highly competitive industry. "There's a morally corrupting symbiosis between celebrities and sections of the Press," Davies said.
Thurlbeck had won a number of awards for stories about Robin Cook, Jeffrey Archer and David Beckham, but he had been dismissed for gross misconduct, his reputation was destroyed, and News International had given him no help with his legal bills.
Davies said that Thurlbeck did not want to give evidence against friends and colleagues, but his guilty plea had simplified the case. With 101 defendants on bail, some journalists, some related to phone hacking, there was a public interest in getting similar defendants to plead guilty.
Weatherup: 'didn't like Coulson's manner so switched from newsdesk to reporting'
Senior management at the News of the World knew about and encouraged phone hacking because it was an expedient and cost-effective way to gather news, James Weatherup's barrister Charles Bott QC told the judge.
Weatherup had not instructed Mulcaire on his own initiative, he was told by Coulson, Kuttner and another executive to use the investigator; it was standard policy that he was required to follow.
Weatherup joined the News of the World in 2004 and worked on the newsdesk for 18 months, but he didn't like Coulson's managerial style or attitude so he returned to reporting and therefter had little contact with Coulson or his deputy, Bott said.
Mr Justice Saunders had been told that Greg Miskiw commissioned Mulcaire 1,500 times, Thurlbeck 261 times and Weatherup 137 times between August 2005 and June 2006, "a golden age" for phone hacking. Bott said that hacking was endemic, but described his client as the least culpable and the least involved.
He had been summarily dismissed with no redundancy, no legal help in April 2011. He had lost his job, home and marriage and now sold caravans, earning a quarter of his former income.
Miskiw: curfew and tag after guilty plea
Mitigation copy compiled with the
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