Three senior journalists at the defunct News of the World tabloid have already pleaded guilty to hacking phones, a prosecutor revealed Wednesday, calling it a sign of the scope of the illegal behavior at the Rupert Murdoch-owned publication.
Prosecutor Andrew Edis said ex-news editor Greg Miskiw, ex-chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck and former reporter James Weatherup all entered guilty pleas ahead of this week's high-profile phone hacking trial of former News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, who are in the dock along with Brooks' husband Charles and several others.
Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who had already been convicted of similar offenses back in 2007, also pleaded guilty.
Brooks and Coulson, both 45, deny a variety of phone hacking-related charges.
Speaking during the trial's opening arguments, Edis said that the guilty pleas show "there was a conspiracy which involved a significant number of people."
Edis said Brooks and Coulson must have known about phone hacking by staff under them because "they controlled the purse-strings" and signed off on illicit payments.
Coulson is accused of conspiring to hack phones and make illegal payments to a police officer for a notebook containing contact details of members of the royal household, while Brooks is alleged to have paid public officials including a member of the armed forces and a senior defense official for information while she was editor of The Sun.
"Mrs. Brooks personally approved nearly 40,000 pounds for stories" to the defense official, Edis said.