By Martin Hickman
The Crown Prosecution Service had evidence incriminating three News of the World executives in phone hacking seven years ago – but made a decision to limit the case to the paper’s royal editor Clive Goodman, he claimed at the Old Bailey today.
Mr Goodman said that between his arrest in August 2006 and before he was jailed in January 2007 prosecution bundles had documents indicating the involvement of news editors Greg Miskiw and Neville Thurlbeck and another executive, who cannot be named.
Sis years later after the cover-up over hacking collapsed, Miskiw and Thurlbeck were charged with and admitted conspiring to hack phones.
Mr Goodman also claimed that the NoW’s then editor Andy Coulson had indicated he would get a job at the NoW if he stayed silent and did not implicate others in the court case in 2006.
He also expressed concern over the conduct of his lawyers, saying that his solicitor Henri Brandman had sent prosecution records on the hacking case against him to NoW’s owner News Group Ltd against his instructions and that his barrister John Kelsey-Fry, whom News International had arranged to represent him, had told him that a judge might view his case more sympathetically if he did not implicate other journalists.
He also suggested a News International executive told him that he could have a job at the NoW if he kept quiet about the involvement of other staff in hacking by the paper’s private detective Glenn Mulcaire – describing that as “a fairly crude carrot and stick.”
Explaining the multiple pressure applied to him to plead guilty, Mr Goodman said that on 9 August 2006, the day after his arrest his lawyer Mr Brandman – whose fees were being paid by News International – suggested that he should say he was a “lone wolf” responsible for hacking.
Mr Goodman said he was worried by the breadth and the depth of the police file on Mr Mulcaire, which ran to 2000 pages and asked Mr Brandman: “What are we going to say?”
Mr Goodman told the court Mr Brandman replied: “Under stress, some kind of lone wolf”
Judge John Saunders asked: “He said that?”, to which Mr Goodman replied: “Yes.”
He said that a later meeting with Mr Brandman on 14 August: “He again raised the topic of me being a lone wolf, which worried me…. I didn’t feel comfortable taking all the blame.”
He also said that during a phone call with Mr Coulson days after his arrest the editor had suggested that he “had arranged for me not to go to prison.”
Mr Goodman told the phone hacking trial: “Mr Coulson gave the impression that he had been having some kind of discussions with people who were making decisions about the case… the impression was it was the police and the Home Office.
“The clear inference was that he had arranged for me not to go to prison.”
Mr Goodman’s lawyer David Spens QC asked: “Did he say what he wanted you to do?”, to which Mr Goodman replied: “Plead guilty.”
At a meeting with Mr Coulson at Cafe Rouge restaurant in Wimbledon Village in August 2006, which Mr Goodman secretly recorded, he said Mr Coulson was “again urging me the important thing is to get this [the hacking case] out of the way quickly.”
Mr Goodman told the court: “Mr Coulson wanted to speak about the criminal case and what he thought as going to happen. He expressed his view that through his contacts he had discovered that the police didn’t want to make the case any deeper than me and Mr Mulcaire and no-one wanted me to go to jail.
“I could come back to the News of the World as some kind of writer or sub-editor or feature writer if I had pleaded guilty and after I had acted alone.”
Speaking about the evidence the authorities had about the involvement of News of the World executives in hacking, Mr Goodman said: “It was quite plain the police had made a decision to stop with me and go no further.”
In the event, in January 2007, Mr Goodman did plead guilty – and was jailed for four months. He did not get a job at the News of the World. No-one else was prosecuted for phone hacking until a new police inquiry began in 2011.