Jurors in the trial of former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and ex-spin doctor Andy Coulson have been told “journalists are no more entitled to break the criminal law than anybody else”.
Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC told the Old Bailey that there was “no justification” for newspaper staff to get involved in phone hacking or to make payments to public officials.
He explained to jurors that private detective Glenn Mulcaire has already admitted phone hacking, as have three other former News of the World journalists - Greg Miskiw, Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup.
Mr Edis said: “The prosecution says that it is important in a free country that there is a free press.
“But the prosecution says that journalists are no more entitled to break the criminal law than anybody else.
“There is no justification at all for journalists to get involved in phone hacking. That is an intrusion into people’s privacy which is against the law.
“The prosecution says also that it is not right for newspapers to corrupt public officials by paying money so that they break their trust. Not the same as a conscientious whistle-blower, where different considerations may perhaps apply. We say: where there is payment, it is always a crime, and everybody should know that.”
Mr Edis said Mulcaire pleaded guilty to conspiracy to unlawfully intercept mobile phone voice-mail messages in November 2006.
Earlier this year, in these proceedings, he also admitted three counts of conspiracy to commit phone hacking, along with a count of phone hacking, he added.
The barrister said that Miskiw, Weatherup and Thurlbeck had also each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to illegally access voice-mails.
Mr Edis said that during the relevant period, Mulcaire was paid a retainer of around £100,000 a year by the NotW.
The prosecution claims that former News of the World editors Brooks and Coulson, and ex-managing editor Kuttner, must have known that phone hacking was taking place.
Celebrities including Kate Moss, Joanna Lumley and Will Young were named as alleged victims.