A rather large cat jumped out of the bag in the phone hacking trial at the Old Bailey in London yesterday.
Former Sunday Mirror journalist Dan Evans (left), appearing as a witness for the prosecution, claimed that he had hacked phones at the Sunday Mirror and that his skill in so doing was one of the reasons he was hired by the News of the World, then edited by Andy Coulson.
Coulson, who later became UK prime minister David Cameron’s director of communications, and former Sun editor and News International CEO Rebekah Brooks are among seven people accused of phone hacking, among other offences. Evans has already pleaded guilty to phone hacking.
Shares in Sunday Mirror owner Trinity Mirror dropped four per cent yesterday as Evans’s revelations looked certain to drag the company and many of its staff from the era into the scandal which, so far, it has rather improbably avoided. Phone hacking is thought by many to have been rife at the tabloid end of Fleet Street during the 2000s, in part because, in the early days at least, many of the perpetrators don’t seem to have realised that it was illegal.
We obviously can’t speculate on what effect Evans’s supposed evidence will have on the fortunes of Coulson, Brooks and others who deny all wrongdoing. But it’s bad news for TM CEO Simon Fox, who joined the company from stricken HMV in 2012 but was showing signs of turning round the struggling newspaper and online publisher.
Legal cases have already cost News of the World and Sun owner News Corp at least $400m. TM has rather shallower pockets.