News Corp.’s News of the World tabloid hacked phones on an “industrial scale,” according to a former reporter who was sent to prison for the crime in 2007.
Clive Goodman, the News of the World’s former royal reporter, told a London court today that he discussed monitoring mobile phones with his editor, Andy Coulson, as far back as 2005. Goodman said he showed a transcript of a voice mail left by Prince Harry on a royal aide’s phone to Coulson.
“I didn’t know it was illegal,” Goodman said of hacking today on his third day of testimony. He said he thought of the practice as “underhand” or “unethical.”
Goodman and Coulson are among seven people standing trial on charges related to phone hacking and bribing public officials at the New York-based company’s U.K. newspapers. Goodman, 56, is one of two people who pleaded guilty to hacking phones in 2006 when the allegations first emerged at News Corp.
The scandal over the practice dragged on for nearly five years after Goodman’s incarceration before erupting amid the discovery that journalists at the News of the World accessed messages on a murdered teenager’s voice mail. Company Chairman Rupert Murdoch closed the tabloid in 2011 in a bid to temper public outrage.
Goodman, who is charged with bribing public officials in the current trial, said today that Coulson initially agreed to a two-month test in 2005 in which the phones of three aides to the royal family were hacked. They agreed to pay Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who went to jail with Goodman in 2007, 500 pounds ($830) a week.
“A few weeks ago you asked me to find new ways of getting into the family, especially William and Harry, and I came up with this safe, productive and cost effective way,” Goodman said in an e-mail to Coulson responding to concerns he was underperforming. “I’m confident it will become a big story gold mine for us if you just let it run just a little longer.”
At one point, Mulcaire recorded messages from Prince William left on the phone of his future wife, Kate Middleton.
The hacking went beyond the royal family and stories for the newspaper, Goodman said. One journalist would hack Coulson’s phone to find out what other departments in the newsroom were doing. The same journalist listened to messages on the phone of Rebekah Brooks, then the editor of News Corp.’s Sun tabloid, who is also a defendant in the trial.
The jury was shown a series of e-mails between Goodman and Coulson in which the reporter made various references to stories found by “matey,” who Goodman said was Mulcaire, including one when Prince William got lost on a military training exercise and was shot with blank rounds.
Goodman is charged with conspiring with Coulson to pay for a bribe to obtain a directory with numbers for the royal family and their employees. He said last week that Princess Diana gave him one of the books that eventually triggered the phone-hacking scandal.
The day after he was arrested in 2006 for phone hacking Goodman testified that he went to an Internet cafe and downloaded many of his e-mail conversations with his superiors because he felt he was “going to be left high and dry” by the newspaper.
Coulson, 46, who went on to become a media aide to Prime Minister David Cameron after he resigned from the News of the World when Goodman and Mulcaire went to prison, is charged with both phone hacking and bribing public officials.
Brooks, 45, is charged with phone hacking, bribing public officials and conspiring to destroy evidence. All seven defendants have pleaded not guilty.
Mulcaire has pleaded guilty to phone hacking again in the present case.