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Papers 'not allowed to break law'
Jurors in the trial of former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and ex-spin doctor Andy Coulson have been told "journalists are no more entitled to break the criminal law than anybody else".
Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC told the Old Bailey that there was "no justification" for newspaper staff to get involved in phone hacking or to make payments to public officials.
He explained to jurors that private detective Glenn Mulcaire has already admitted phone hacking, as have three other former News of the World journalists - Greg Miskiw, Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup.
Mr Edis said: "The prosecution says that it is important in a free country that there is a free press.
"But the prosecution says that journalists are no more entitled to break the criminal law than anybody else.
"There is no justification at all for journalists to get involved in phone hacking. That is an intrusion into people's privacy which is against the law.
"The prosecution says also that it is not right for newspapers to corrupt public officials by paying money so that they break their trust. Not the same as a conscientious whistleblower, where different considerations may perhaps apply.
"We say: where there is payment, it is always a crime, and everybody should know that."
Mr Edis said Mulcaire pleaded guilty to conspiracy to unlawfully intercept mobile phone voicemail messages in November 2006.
Earlier this year, in these proceedings, he also admitted three counts of conspiracy to commit phone hacking, along with a count of phone hacking, he added.
The barrister said that Miskiw, Weatherup and Thurlbeck had also each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to illegally access voicemails.
He said: "Now what we say about that is, using all of that information that I've just given about those pleas, that there was a conspiracy which involved a significant number of people and it was quite a substantial conspiracy.
"And that may help you to decide now. Because those names, they knew.
"So who else knew?"
Mr Edis said that during the relevant period, Mulcaire was paid a retainer of around £100,000 a year by the NotW, described by the prosecutor as an "extraordinary arrangement" which must have required high level approval.
The court heard that both Mulcaire and Goodman pleaded guilty to phone hacking after the original investigation in 2006, but it was suggested that hacking was limited to "single rogue reporter" Goodman.
He said: "News International was keen to say that phone hacking in the NotW was really limited to Mr Goodman.
"But this inquiry has proved conclusively that that is not true.
"Obviously it has, because it has secured the convictions of Greg Miskiw, Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup.
"So it cannot at all be ever suggested now by anybody that phone hacking at the NotW was restricted to Mr Clive Goodman."
The court heard that News International had publicly admitted that, and issued a statement including an unreserved apology to people in cases meeting certain criteria.
The prosecution claims that former News of the World editors Brooks and Coulson, and ex-managing editor Kuttner, must have known that phone hacking was taking place.
Mr Edis said: "The News of the World is a Sunday paper. That means it published once a week, 52 times a year. It wasn't War And Peace. It wasn't an enormous document. It was the sort of document that if you were its editor you could actually take an interest in its content without too much trouble.
"What you are going to have to consider is whether these people were doing their jobs properly, in which case we say they must have known what they were spending the money on.
"They must have known, we say, where these stories came from, otherwise they would never have got into the paper."
Celebrities including Kate Moss, Joanna Lumley and Will Young were named as some of the defendants' alleged victims of phone hacking.
Royal Lord Frederick Windsor, and Princes William and Harry's former private secretary Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton also had their voicemails hacked, Mr Edis said.
He told jurors that tomorrow they would hear more about how 13 recordings of the royal's voicemails were discovered, along with information about hacking related to former home secretary David Blunkett.
The trial was adjourned until tomorrow when Mr Edis will continue his opening.