Phone hacking was ‘systematic’ at News of the World, trial told

Andy Coulson, the former editor of the News of the World, knew about phone hacking because the illegal practice was “systematic” at the newspaper, a court has been told.

James Weatherup, 59, the ex-news editor of the now defunct tabloid, said intercepting voicemails was part of “day to day” life and was discussed at daily editorial conferences.

He told the High Court in Edinburgh that he used to make a telephone gesture with his hand to indicate to Mr Coulson that a story had been obtained by hacking.

He added that the former editor always needed to know where a story came from, and would ask his staff in meetings.

Mr Coulson, 47, David Cameron’s former director of communications, denies lying under oath while giving evidence at the perjury trial of the former socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan in 2010.

Mr Weatherup said that on one occasion a colleague told the editor a story had been obtained illegally. He said: “There was one time when Andy asked where a story had come from.

“Another executive piped up, ‘It’s the dark arts boss’. He actually said not to use that language anymore.”

The journalist said he joined the News of the World in 2004 and shortly after arriving was told by the managing editor to cut the news desk budget.

Mr Weatherup, who received a suspended sentence after pleading guilty to phone hacking charges at the Old Bailey in London in 2013, told the court he noticed that a company called Nine Consultancy was being paid £92,000 a year.

He said the firm was run by Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator, and he was being paid more than News of the World reporters.

He added: “I was under a great deal of pressure to cut the editorial budget. It seemed like a huge sum for me. At the time you could ring up a private enquiry agent and they could do a job for you for a set fee.”

However, Mr Weatherup said senior executives at the newspaper were unwilling to pay off Mr Mulcaire. He added: “I didn’t know initially, but I soon found out that he was a phone hacker.”

The court heard he personally used Mr Mulcaire’s services 137 times, although not always for phone hacking.

He told the court: “Phone hacking was systematic at the News of the World. Andy would have known Mulcaire was hacking phones.”

Asked by Murdo Macleod QC, defending, if his evidence was “nonsense”, Mr Weatherup replied: “I have no reason to lie. I feel sorry for Andy. I feel for his wife. I feel sorry for his children. I have no reason to tell lies.”

Prosecutors allege that on December 9 and December 10, 2010, at the High Court in Glasgow, Mr Coulson told a number of lies when giving evidence about his News of the World career.

The charge states that he lied when he claimed that prior to the arrest of Mr Mulcaire, and the News of the World journalist Clive Goodman, in 2006, he did not know the pair were involved in phone hacking.

The trial will continue on Friday.

Source: The Telegraph

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