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News Corp. Lawyer Says He Never Gave Legal Opinion on Hacking

A top lawyer at News Corp. tabloids told jurors today that he was never asked to give an opinion on the legality of phone hacking and was assured that it only took place at the News of the World.

Justin Walford, who has worked at News Corp.’s U.K. unit since 2005, said that he was told that phone hacking didn’t take place at the company’s daily Sun tabloid. He also praised two of the tabloid editors on trial in the case, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson.

Brooks “was a demanding editor,” said Walford, who worked with the 45-year-old Brooks while she was editor of the Sun. “She was passionate about the paper. We had many an argument about what went into the paper.”

Brooks, who later became chief executive officer of News Corp.’s U.K. unit, and the 45-year-old Coulson are among eight people on trial over phone hacking and bribes to public officials. News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch closed the News of the World in 2011 to defuse a scandal over revelations that journalists had hacked the phone of a missing teenager, who was later found murdered.

While the News of the World was the center of phone-hacking allegations in the case, journalists at the Sun are accused by prosecutors of paying bribes for stories.

Walford said that as a lawyer, he didn’t try to find out the name of the source for stories.

“Editors will push the lawyer to agree the copy they have let into the paper,” he said. “But I have never felt undue financial pressure or anything like that.”

Other defendants include Stuart Kuttner, the 73-year-old former managing editor of the News of the World, and Ian Edmondson, a 44-year-old former news editor, who are both accused of phone hacking. Clive Goodman, 56, is charged with conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office while he was the royal reporter at the News of the World.

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