Murdoch editors Brooks and Coulson oversaw phone hacking -court

Reuters

LONDON, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Rupert Murdoch's former editorRebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, Prime Minister David Cameron'sex-media chief, oversaw a system of phone-hacking and illegalpayments to officials when they ran the now defunct News of theWorld, a London court heard on Wednesday.

Prosecutor Andrew Edis told the Old Bailey that Brooks andCoulson were in charge at the Sunday tabloid or its daily sisterpaper the Sun when the illegal behaviour was alleged to havetaken place.

Edis said both had sanctioned illegal payments to be made topublic officials, including one by Brooks for nearly 40,000pounds ($64,000) to a senior Ministry of Defence official.Coulson is accused of authorising a payment to a royal policeprotection officer to secure a phone book with contact detailsfor royal staff.

When police finally began to reveal the truth, Brooks andother figures at Murdoch's British newspaper business - thenknown as News International - mounted a cover-up, Edis said.

Brooks and Coulson are on trial with six others, accused ofconspiring to hack phones and make illegal payments. They denyall the charges. She also faces two counts of conspiracy topervert the course of justice.

The court heard on Wednesday that three former seniorjournalists from the News of the World had pleaded guilty tocharges relating to phone-hacking, and Edis said the jury wouldhave to decide whether Brooks and Coulson were likely to haveknown about the illegal behaviour.

"There was phone hacking, and quite a lot of it," Edis said.

"Given they (Brooks and Coulson) were so senior, if theyknew about it, well obviously they were allowing it to happen.They were in charge of the purse strings."

The court was told that ex-chief correspondent NevilleThurlbeck, former assistant news editor James Weatherup, andex-news editor Greg Miskiw had admitted conspiracy to interceptcommunications at earlier hearings.

Their guilty pleas, which had not previously beenreportable, are the first public admissions by former News ofthe World journalists since police launched an inquiry in 2011into allegations that staff on the Murdoch paper had hacked thephones of celebrities, politicians and victims of crime.

The court was also told that private detective GlennMulcaire, who worked for the paper, had also pleaded guilty tohacking the mobile phone of missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

"He was alleged to have hacked the phone of Milly Dowler andhe has pleaded guilty to this," Edis told the court as he setout the case for a trial that is expected to last six months.

It was the revelation of the hacking of Dowler's phone inJuly 2011 which caused uproar across Britain and led Murdoch toclosing down the 168-year-old News of the World.

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