Phone-hacking trial reports w/c Jan 27 2014

The Guardian, January 27 2014
Date at the top of each report is the date of the hearing. Reports were written for following day's paper. Hence use of 'yesterday' in some of them.

January 27 2014       A self-confessed phone-hacker yesterday claimed that he was hired to work for the News of the World after personally telling the editor, Andy Coulson, that he could bring him ‘big exclusive stories’ by intercepting voicemail.

Speaking to an Old Bailey jury, Dan Evans became the first specialist hacker to talk publicly about his work. The court heard that he had agreed to become a prosecution witness last August and had admitted conspiring to intercept communications over a seven-year period for the Sunday Mirror as well as for the News of the World. Voicemail interception, he told the court, had been “a pretty standard tabloid tool.”

Evans said he had been shown how to hack mobile phone messages by a senior executive on the Sunday Mirror and had gone to do so for the paper “on a fairly grand scale”. The News of the World had then made a series of attempts to poach him, culminating in a breakfast meeting at the Aldwych Hotel in central London in October 2004.

He told the jury he had sat at a table in the hotel restaurant opposite Andy Coulson, then editing the News of the World, and another journalist from the paper, ‘Mr A’, with whom he had already held two meetings. He had ordered scrambled eggs and smoked salmon and then told Coulson about his background and experience with investigations. “I moved onto voicemail interception and told him how I’d got a lot of commercially sensitive data stored in my head.” He had told Coulson about a list of hacking targets, complete with phone numbers and PIN codes, which he had compiled for the Sunday Mirror. “I told him I could bring him big, exclusive stories cheaply, which was like the ‘ker-ching moment.'”

Coulson had asked him how he would run an investigation, and he had told him that he could go out and meet people or he could hack into somebody’s phone, find a story “and boom – you’ve got something that’s going to shift units from supermarket shelves.”

Evans said he would not have used the expression ‘phone-hacking’ in talking to Coulson but would have talked about ‘stuff with phones’. He added: “There was not an awful lot of doubt that I was talking about voicemail interception.” He had described a series of ‘humdinger’ stories which he had landed for the front page of the Sunday Mirror. “I said these were achieved through this method. Andy knew what the context of it was.”

The breakfast had ended, he and Coulson had shaken hands and, ten minutes later, Mr A had called to tell him: “You’ve done brilliantly. You’ve got the job.”

Evans appeared on a day when the actor Jude Law was confronted with claims that a member of his immediate family had sold information about him to the News of the World and that a close friend and one of his employees also had been sources for the paper’s coverage of his private life.

Questioned by Andrew Edis QC for the Crown, Dan Evans told the court that he had started his Fleet Street career in 2001, doing shifts as a news reporter for the Sunday Mirror before joining the staff in mid 2003. “There was a point after I had taken the staff job when I was taken to one side by a senior executive and tasked with something that was a secret. He proceeded to show me how to hack voicemail for the first time and proceeded to show me a bundle of pages with famous people’s phone numbers and details. He said:’Right. This is your job – to hack and crack the PIN codes of all these people.”

The following year, in May 2004, he told the court, he had been contacted by James Weatherup, who had previously worked with him at the Sunday Mirror but had left to become news editor at the News of the World. “In common with other senior journalists on the paper, he was aware that I had been tasked to hack people’s phones on a fairly grand scale.”

Weatherup had invited him to a bar in Wapping and encouraged him to join him at the News of the World, in part because of his skill at intercepting voicemail: “I could bring my knowledge of phone-hacking to the News of the World. I knew the Sunday Mirror’s phone-hacking regime inside out.” Evans had turned him down, in part because he was becoming depressed by the amount of hacking he was already doing. “I was forsaking stuff that I really enjoyed doing.”

Weatherup had persisted, inviting him back to the bar where he introduced him to another journalist from the News of the World – “a bombastic character” – who had told him: “I know you can screw phones. What else can you do?” The meeting ended abruptly, Evans said, when he made it clear he was not interested. It was after that, in September 2004, that he had been approached by Mr A.

He told the jury he had originally met Mr A the previous year at the party to mark James Weatherup’s leaving the Sunday Mirror: “James was giving his speech and there was a lot of heckling from the crowd, and something came up to do with sources of stories. I remember Mr A shouting in a very knowing voice ‘I don’t understand why people don’t change their fucking voicemail PINs.”

At that point, he said, a colleague from the Sunday Mirror had come over and led him away, telling Mr A: “You leave him alone. He’s ours.” Evans added:”You can take from that that voicemail interception was a pretty standard tool in the tabloid journalistic kit, ie most people knew about it.”

After the breakfast with Mr A and Andy Coulson, he said, he was hired to work in the News of the World’s features department which, he said, was in a state of ‘internal tension’ with the news desk, going ‘head to head’ in competition with each other every week. He recalled one features staffer talking to him about phone-hacking, saying: “News have been doing it for ages. My view is that if you can’t beat them, join them.”

He had gone on, he claimed, to hack phones “probably most days”, as well as using a firm of inquiry agents, TDI, who obtained confidential phone data, bank details, tax information and medical records on targets. Stories obtained by these ‘dark arts’, he said, needed ‘a line of deniability’. He suggested that if a hacked phone disclosed two people having an affair, the paper would then try to buy the story of one of the parties to the affair: “That’s kind of how tabloid journalism working at that time.”

He said he had finally been caught in 2009 when he had attampted to hack the phone of an interior designer, Kelly Hoppen, and “failed miserably”, triggering an automatic security alert which warned Hoppen that somebody had tried to access her voicemail with the wrong PIN code. That had then been traced to his company phone. “I was a moron,” he said.

Dan Evans has pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiring to intercept communications between February 2003 and June 2010. Andy Coulson denies one count of conspiring to intercept communications.

 

January 28 2014

Andy Coulson personally listened to a voicemail which had been intercepted from the phone of the actor Daniel Craig, declared it “brilliant” and then organised a plan to conceal the voicemail’s origin, according to a self-confessed phone-hacker who is giving evidence at the Old Bailey.

Dan Evans told the jury in the phone-hacking trial that Coulson told him to arrange for a recording of the voicemail to be left in a Jiffy bag at the front gate of the News of the World’s office so that it appeared to have been provided by an anonymous source.

The court has heard that Evans has agreed to give evidence for the prosecution after admitting that he hacked phones over a seven-year period for the Sunday Mirror and the News of the World. He told the jury yesterday (Tues) that hacking was “referred to regularly” at the News of the World and that one voicemail had been discussed in front of “the entire executive contingent” of the paper.

Andy Coulson sat in the dock with his chin resting on his right hand as Evans described how he had come to hack Daniel Craig’s voicemail in September 2005. He said it had been an unhappy time, he had felt quite bullied at work. At one point, another journalist had ‘monstered’ him in an email, written entirely in capital letters: “If you don’t come up with a front-page story soon then you might as well jump off a cliff.” Evans had added that the same journalist had then told him that his Unique Selling Point was intercepting voicemail and “I suggest you fucking well get on with some.”

He had gone home that weekend, he told the jury, and “hacked every phone I could possibly think of hacking, and that included one belonging to the actor Daniel Craig, who might be better known as James Bond.” As he listened to Craig’s messages, he said, he had heard a female voice saying: “Hi. It’s me. Can’t speak. I’m at the Groucho with Jude. I love you.” When he checked the number from which she was calling, he found it belonged to Sienna Miller.

Evans said that over the previous months he had followed the story of Sienna Miller’s turbulent relationship with Jude Law, who had been exposed in the tabloids for an affair with their nanny. If she was now having an affair with Daniel Craig, that was “the next instalment in the soap opera.” He had recorded the voicemail and gone into the office and played it to a colleague, who told him that another reporter on the paper, Mr Z, had already picked up a tip about the affair from his own source. Mr Z had been delighted when he heard about it: “The voicemail was incontrovertible proof that the editor of the News of the World required to run the story.”

Evans said there had been excitement about the voicemail. He continued: “Later that day, Andy came over wanting to hear the tape.” Several other journalists, including Mr Z, were near-by as he played him the message, he claimed. “Certainly, Andy was there. I played the tape. Andy was standing right next to me, listening to the tape.”

Evans was asked how Coulson and the others had reacted. “Andy became very animated. “Brilliant.” Mr Z was “Yeah, told you so.” Everyone is having a bit of an adrenalin kick. They said ‘Good work.'” Another journalist had taken him by the elbow and said “You’re a company man now, Dan.”

A little later, he claimed, Coulson had called across the room to him with an instruction: “Andy wanted to preserve the tape but not in the original recording, so he said to me basically ‘You need to make a copy of the tape, stick the copy in a Jiffy bag, have it sent down to the front gate, have them ring up and say ‘This has been dropped in anonymously.””

Evans told the jury that he had cabled two dictaphones together, made a second recording of the voicemail and then sent it out to the front gate. “Mr Z, about 20 minutes later, comes back upstairs with the Jiffy bag with a look of mock surprise: ‘Look what I’ve found!'”

Evans said he had gone to Daniel Craig’s north London home to confront him about the affair. Craig had said “No, no, no. It’s not true. No.” They had held the story back for a further week. Evans had continued to monitor Craig’s phone and had heard a message from Jude Law: “He had phoned Daniel and left a voicemail – quite bitchy – and saying ‘Thanks, mate. I hope Saski doesn’t find out.” Saski, the jury has been told, was the name of Craig’s then girlfriend. Evans said he had fed this back to the paper. “I assume it was passed on to Andy.” The News of the World had then published the story.

However, Daniel Craig had continued to be one of Evans’ targets, he told the jury.
Four months later, in February 2006, he said, he had picked up a message on Craig’s phone suggesting that an actress called Eva Green was to be the next Bond girl. He had taken the story into the paper, where, he understood, it had been discussed in one of the regular morning conferences, chaired by Andy Coulson.

Afterwards, Mr Z had come up to him and told him that during the conference, Coulson had queried the reliability of the story and been told by a colleague of Evans’: “It’s from Dan. It’s from the phones.” Evans told the jury: “This is in the executive conference in front of the entire executive contingent of the paper.” He had then remonstrated with his colleague, who had replied: “Take your point. Won’t do it again.”

Evans told the jury that he could think of ten named individuals at the News of the World who, from his own direct personal knowledge, were aware of the phone-hacking. He claimed that this included Coulson and the then news editor, James Weatherup, who, the court has heard, has pleaded guilty to conspiring to intercept communications. “It was referred to regularly, daily,” he said.

On Monday, he told the jury that he had learned a technique of hacking known as ‘double tapping’. He would call the target on one phone, count to three and then call with a second phone. If his timing was right, his second phone would be put through to voicemail and he could hang up the first phone before the target heard it ringing. Yesterday, the jury were shown a schedule which had been prepared by police, who analysed calls made by Evans’ phones and selected every case which appeared to be consistent with double tapping. Among dozens of names which were shown to the jury were those of Cilla Black, Kate Moss, Trevor McDonald, Jade Goody and football agent Struan Marshall.

Evans said that everything had changed on August 8 2006, when the police arrested the newspaper’s royal editor, Clive Goodman, and the news desk’s specialist hacker, Glenn Mulcaire. There was “a palpable sense of shock” in the office, he said: “Everybody was on tenterhooks. There was a lot of fear and anxiety going around, a lot of people preparing to cover their tracks for all sorts of different privacy-related infringements.” That morning, as he took the lift up to the newsroom, another journalist had told him: “Goes without saying. No more hookey stuff.”

He said he had understood that this was a reference to hacking and that he had gone to his desk, which was in the middle of the features department, where he destroyed microcasettes with recordings of intercepted voicemail, shredded paperwork containing call data and ripped up notebooks. He had then taken his masterlist of target phone numbers and PIN codes, put it in an envelope, wrapped the envelope in black gaffer tape and hidden it in a friend’s loft.

There the list had stayed, he said, until nearly three years later, in June 2009, when he wanted to check a story that the interior designer Kelly Hoppen was in a relationship with Madonna’s former husband, Guy Ritchie. “Curiosity killed this particular cat,” he told the jury. He had gone back to the masterlist, found details for Hoppen, whom he had hacked in the past, but used an out-of-date PIN code, which trigged a security warning which was sent automatically to Hoppen.

Some nine months later, in March or April 2010, the paper’s new managing editor, Bill Akass, had called him in and told him that Hoppen was suing. He had felt, he said, “stir-cold shock” and had told Akass he had no recollection of making the calls. He had been taken off front-line reporting and then later sent home on full pay. Asked about a statement which he had then made in the case brought by Hoppen, he said: “I didn’t tell the truth… I point-blank denied hacking her voicemail.”

Asked if he had ever been in trouble with the law, he said that he had been ‘busted’ for possession of amphetamine when he was a student and then for possession of cocaine ‘seven or eight years ago.’ At one point he told the jury: “For the record, I would like to apologise to all involved who had their privacy infringed.”

Dan Evans has pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiring to intercept communications. He has also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office and to one count of perverting the course of justice by making a false witness statement about Kelly Hoppen. Andy Coulson denies one count of conspiring to intercept communications and one count of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office. The trial continues.

 

January 29 2014

Andy Coulson’s lawyer yesterday confronted the self-confessed phone-hacker Dan Evans, repeatedly questioning the reliability of his evidence, which includes allegations that Coulson was involved in crime when he was editing the News of the World.

On Monday and Tuesday, Evans told an Old Bailey jury that Coulson hired him as a reporter knowing that he had a history of hacking phones in his previous job at the Sunday Mirror and that Coulson personally listened to a voicemail which he had intercepted from the phone of the actor Daniel Craig.

Yesterday, Timothy Langdale QC challenged him at length over a false witness statement which he had made in a civil action and over the history of his attempts to secure an immunity from prosecution in exchange for giving evidence.

The jury have been told that Evans has pleaded guilty to four offences, including perverting the course of justice by swearing a false statement in a civil action brought by the interior designer Kelly Hoppen, whose phone he hacked in June 2009. Questioned by Mr Langdale, he said: “I did lie. I was upholding a conspiracy… I’m saying there was an enormous conspiracy which I’ve been caught up in. I was toing the party line, the company line.”

He said that when the News of the World’s managing editor in April 2010 first asked him about Hoppen’s complaint that her phone had been hacked, he had claimed not to be able to remember the incident and had mentioned that, as a result of a spilled drink in a pub, his phone at the time had had ‘sticky keys’.

Evans continued: “This phrase was seized on. By the time it got to my first meeting with News International lawyers, it had already been drafted into the statement. There it stayed. I went with it because I was extremely frightened.” Asked if he was blaming the lawyers, identified as Farrer & Co, he said: “I bitterly regret that I didn’t take a braver course of action at the time.” He agreed that when he had been arrested and questioned by police in August 2011, he had given them a prepared statement which repeated the same line. “It was cobblers,” he said.

Mr Langdale then led him through the history of his negotiations with police, beginning in November 2011, when notes disclosed by Evans’ lawyers suggest that he first considered the possibility of helping the police and of seeking immunity from prosecution for himself. Pressed about his intentions at that time, he said: “I was a very frightened man – one person between the Prime Minister, between the tabloid world, between highly-paid lawyers. I didn’t know what to do.”

By February 2012, his lawyers were talking to police and recording Evan’s claim that “phone-hacking was discussed at daily editorial conferences” at the News of the World. Challenged as to how he could have known that, Evans said: “As far as I was concerned, it was so widely known at the paper and it had been covered up so extensively that there was a very widespread conspiracy within the organisation.”

Mr Langdale suggested that it was not true that Andy Coulson had listened to the message from Daniel Craig’s phone. Evans replied: “I didn’t see you there at the time. It’s true.”

The jury heard that after lengthy negotiations between police and Evans’ lawyers, he had agreed to give three long interviews to detectives in August 2012. He had been hoping to be given a complete immunity but the detectives had opened the interviews by telling him: “We’re not offering you a contract… We definitely won’t be making any promises.” Evans had then told them: “I can pinpoint the moment, however many years ago, that I took the wrong path. I want to be able to look my kids in the eyes and tell them when they need to be honest. I want to be able to begin my life again with a clean slate.”

With his lawyers pressing the police for a full immunity, the court heard, Evans had given a fourth interview in September 2012 only to see negotiations falter and then collapse. In January 2013, the Crown Prosecution Service had formally rejected the idea, telling his lawyers that such an agreement would leave Evans “extremely vulnerable to the charge that he had made up all the evidence in order to exculpate himself and place the blame on others.”

Evans had then withdrawn his offer to help police. Mr Langdale asked him what had happened to his desire to look his children in the eyes, to have a clean slate. “To be frank,” he replied, “I’d had enough of being used as a football by all the people in this particular game, and recalcitrance got the better of me. I decided I didn’t want any more.”

Over the following months, the jury were told, the police had re-arrested him and questioned him under caution. By April 2013, he had hired a new lawyer, who re-opened negotations with police. In August 2013, he said, the CPS had signed an agreement that his co-operation would result in a reduced sentence.

In further questioning, Evans admitted that he had used alcohol and cocaine at the Sunday Mirror and had continued to do so at the News of the World. “There was a lot of duress. I hacked there to get stories and to keep my head above water. It’s difficult to understand the pressure that human beings can come under in a newspaper like that…. Working there was a never-ending stream of grief.” He said he had been in therapy for the last year and a half.

He said his hacking had been “an open secret” at the News of the World – “the office cat knew.” He had not broadcast his activity because that would have been crass but added: “The truth is that Andy Coulson knew exactly what went on on his watch.”

Andy Coulson denies conspiring to intercept communications. Dan Evans has pleaded guilty to two counts of intercepting communications; conspiring to commit misconduct in public office; and perverting the course of justice. The trial continues.

 

January 30 2014

Andy Coulson was not even in London on the day when he has been accused of personally listening to an illegally intercepted voicemail in the east London office of the News of the World, an old Bailey jury heard yesterday.

Dan Evans, who has admitted hacking phones over a seven-year period, has told the jury that he played Coulson the message on which, he claims, Sienna Miller could be heard declaring her love for the James Bond actor Daniel Craig, in the newspaper’s features department ‘around twilight’ on Tuesday September 27 2005.

In a series of bruising exchanges, Coulson’s barrister, Timothy Langdale QC said: “Mr Coulson was not in the office at all that day. He was not even in London that day. What do you say to that?”

Evans replied that that had always been his memory. “If you are saying that he definitely wasn’t there and he was in a different part of the country, then my memory must be flawed. Maybe it was the next day, but my memory has always been that it was the same day. It doesn’t alter the fact that the playing of the tape and the remarks made happened.”

Asked whether he was now saying that the incident could have occurred on the Wednesday or the Thursday, Evans replied: “It might have been. My feeling is that it would have been the Wednesday, the earlier date, although clearly my recollection hasn’t been perfect on the day that it happened. But happen, it did.”

The clash came on Evan’s fourth day in the witness box at the phone-hacking trial, as Langdale challenged a series of details in Evans’ account of the Daniel Craig voicemail.

Evans has told the jury that a female he identified as Sienna Miller had left a message on the previous Saturday evening: “Hi. It’s me. Can’t speak. I’m at the Groucho with Jude. I love you.”

Langdale told him: “Sienna Miller wasn’t in the Groucho club on the Saturday.”

Evans replied: “Well, you know, the message said ‘I’m in the Groucho with Jude.'”

Evans has said that he hacked the message during the following 48 hours.

Langdale: “You didn’t hack Daniel Craig on the Sunday or the Monday.”

Evans: “Yes, I did.”

“You’re sticking to that?”

“I’m not here to make things up. This isn’t a fun experience for me.”

Langdale then showed the jury a schedule of calls to Daniel Craig’s mobile phone number which had been made from Evans’ mobile or office number. Evans agreed that these were hacks or attempted hacks. Langdale said the schedule showed no evidence of a hack on either the Sunday or Monday in question. Evans replied that he also frequently hacked Craig’s phone by calling a special voicemail retrieval number, which did not figure on the schedule.

Evans has told the jury that on the Tuesday morning he had played his tape of the voicemail to several journalists, after which it was “all hands to the pumps” as the newspaper moved to flesh out the story. Langdale told him: “I’m going to suggest to you that nothing of any consequence in terms of mobilising resources or starting work on the story commenced on Tuesday the 27th.”

Evans replied: “I do not accept what you say.” Langdale then showed the jury a series of internal emails which contained no reference to Evans working on the story; and phone records which showed that on the Tuesday morning, Evans had hacked the voicemail of Jade Goody’s partner, Jeff Brazier: “This is your big day. You come into the office, wagging your tail, with this big story. What are you doing hacking Jeff Brazier?”

Evans said it was common to work on multiple stories at any one time. Langdale pressed him on phone records showing that he had hacked Daniel Craig’s phone later in the week, at a time when other reporters were working on the story about Craig’s relationship with Sienna Miller: “Is it the case that you were trying to get information yourself to try and get in on the story yourself?

“No,” said Evans. “I was already in on it.”

Langdale asked why he had hacked Craig’s phone on the Friday afternoon immediately before and after knocking on the actor’s door to confront him with the story. Langdale suggested that this was very risky. Evans replied: “I think with the benefit of hindsight, it clearly wasn’t wise, but at the time, there was a sense at the News of the World that we were pretty much untouchable. There was an arrogance in the paper which was probably led by the editor and his attitude.”

Langdale also challenged Evans over the detail of an earlier story in which he reported that Sienna Miller had been in tears over reports that Jude Law had had an affair with their nanny. Langdale suggested that the story “had nothing to do with any voicemail hack” and that it came from another reporter’s source. Evans told the jury that he had heard a voicemail, “cleaned it up, sanitised it” and then added “tabloid fluff”, inventing “plausible quotes” from unnamed sources.

Dan Evans has pleaded guilty to two counts of intercepting communications, at the Sunday Mirror and the News of the World; one count of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office; and one count of perverting the course of justice. Andy Coulson denies one count of conspiring to intercept communications and one count of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office. The trial continues.

ends