UK & World News
Key Hacking Witness 'Wanted Legal Immunity'
A key prosecution witness at the phone hacking trial has admitted his main motivation in co-operating with the police inquiry was to try to secure "immunity from prosecution".
Dan Evans, a former reporter at the News Of The World, was not given immunity, but the Old Bailey was told he did strike a deal for a reduced sentence if he testified on behalf of the Crown.
The 38-year-old has admitted hacking phones while working at the Sunday Mirror between February 2003 and January 2005 and the same offence at the News Of The World up to June 2010.
He has also admitted conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
The witness claimed senior management at the News Of The World, including former editor Andy Coulson, knew and encouraged his phone hacking activities, a charge Coulson and other defendants in the trial deny.
Evans said his hacking at the News Of The World was an "open secret" and even "the office cat knew about it".
He said: "I was conscious that what I was doing was wrong. It was widely known, it was widely held this was going on. Other reporters asked me to do things on their behalf, usually at the behest of the desk."
The court was told that as the negotiations continued with the authorities for immunity, Evans told lawyers he had hacked the phones of Cilla Black, racing driver Jenson Button and at least one other.
In a third day of testimony, Evans was cross-examined by counsel for Coulson, Timothy Langdale QC.
The witness admitted lying about trying to hack the phone of interior designer Kelly Hoppen, saying he "was toeing the line" and part of an "enormous conspiracy at News International."
Evans told the court he had been very frightened when he was caught and a false defence he used when initially questioned made it into a witness statement drafted by News International lawyers.
That statement claimed he had accidentally tried to dial Hoppen's voicemail because he had spilt liquid on his phone and it must have resulted in "sticky keys".
Evans said he "bitterly regretted not taking a braver course of action at the time".
The journalist was also challenged over his claim on Tuesday that†Coulson shouted "Brilliant!" when he heard a tape of actress Sienna Miller's voicemail message to Bond star Daniel Craig.
Evans said his use of the word "brilliant" was an attempt to paraphrase the reaction of Coulson and others in the office.
"It is truthful evidence," he said. "The general context of the exact word 'brilliant' - I was paraphrasing. Trying to explain the general sense of how happy he was."
Mr Langdale asked him if he accepted that he did not say the word brilliant when he gave his initial statement to the police. The witness replied "Yes".
Evans said he could pinpoint the moment years ago when he took the "wrong path" and decided to embark on hacking.
He was asked if he had hacked because he was a "failing reporter".
He replied: "There's a lot of duress. Yes, I hacked them to get stories. I hacked them to keep my head above water. It's difficult to understand the pressures that people can come under at a paper like that."
Coulson denies conspiring to hack phones and commit misconduct in a public office. All seven defendants in the trial, including former Sun and News Of The World editor Rebekah Brooks, deny all of the charges against them.
The trial continues.
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