If former News of the World editor and News International executive Rebekah Brooks didn’t know about systematic bribery and phone-hacking at the newspaper, if ex-editor and prime ministerial adviser Andy Coulson didn’t know, if former royal editor Clive Goodman was unaware, if Brooks’ PA and husband and security chief and other editors and staff were in the dark, then “what were they doing?”.

In an extraordinarily detailed case presented overnight by Andrew Edis QC in a British court, that was the key message. They should have known. They must have known. They couldn’t possibly have not known.

“[It] was only publishing once a week … the management’s job was to know what was in the paper. It wasn’t War and Peace. It wasn’t an enormous document.”

Brooks approved more than $67,000 in payments to a Ministry of Defence official, Edis alleged. Coulson approved payments to police for secret royal phone books. PA Cheryl Carter tried to hide journalists’ notebooks from investigators. This was corruption and conspiracy at the highest levels of News Corporation.

They may be able to argue their way out of it. They may cut a deal to avoid significant punishment. But the damage to corporate credibility is done. And the cost — News International chief Tom Mockridge was caught on tape musing the bill could be as high as $1.7 billion — will cruel the company for decades.

Crikey calling

Crikey Calling is independent media for independent minds – in handy podcast form! Join the Crikey crew for a lively (if somewhat wonky) look behind the scenes of politics and power in Australia.

Join Canberra correspondent Bernard Keane and deputy editor Cathy Alexander as they jump into their time machine and preview what Parliament will look like as it sits for the first time under Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Stream it or download here.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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