* Prosecutor says Brooks, Coulson must have known of hacking
* Brooks denies knowledge of hacks, Coulson says knew one
* Prosecutor denies case is attack on press freedom
By Michael Holden
LONDON, May 7 Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson
would have been incompetent to not know of phone-hacking when
they edited Rupert Murdoch's News of the World amid a "rotten
state of affairs", prosecutors told a London court on Wednesday.
Brooks, who later ran News Corp.'s British newspaper arm,
and Coulson, British Prime Minister David Cameron's media chief
until 2011, are accused of conspiracy to hack mobile phones and
authorising illegal payments to public officials.
Brooks also faces a charge of perverting the course of
justice by trying to hinder the police inquiry. They deny the
Murdoch closed the News of the World in 2011 amid a public
furore over phone-hacking at the paper, which rocked his media
empire, sent shockwaves through Britain's political
establishment and led to Brooks' resignation.
In his closing speech to London's Old Bailey court,
prosecutor Andrew Edis said top editors would have known their
staff were engaged in illegally accessing voicemails on mobile
phones if they were doing their jobs properly.
He reminded the jury three senior news desk editors had
pleaded guilty to phone-hacking charges. They had worked "hand
in glove" with Brooks, Coulson and the paper's managing editor
Stuart Kuttner, who is also on trial, Edis added.
"The investigation has clearly proved there was a rotten
state of affairs at the top of that organisation," he said.
"What you have to decide is whether these one or two people
above knew of that rotten state of affairs which permeated the
organisation they were supposed to be running.
"It was their job to know. Are these people incompetent? Are
they so careless and so unconcerned about what's happening on
their watch that they didn't notice?" he asked.
BROOKS DENIES KNOWLEDGE
Edis asked if this was a case "where young, inexperienced,
talented, ambitious, clever, charming people have been placed in
a position of great power" and "allowed themselves in their
excitement of the chase" to say it didn't matter if what they
did was lawful because "we just want the story".
Giving her evidence, Brooks denied any knowledge of
phone-hacking at the paper she edited from 2000 to 2003 while
Coulson, her successor as editor until 2007, told the court he
had only been aware of one instance of phone-hacking.
However, Edis told the jury that Brooks had delivered a
"carefully choreographed, well-scripted performance" and the
jury needed to "see behind the mask".
"There has been a fair amount of choreography in some of the
way these defences have been presented to you," he said.
He also told the court that the prosecution was not an
attack on the freedom of the press nor on the tabloid press.
"We accept that a free press is an essential part of the
protections of a democratic society," he said. "The ultimate
protection of a democratic society is the rule of law, that
applies to newspapers in the same way as it does to you, me or
Closing speeches in the trial of Brooks, Coulson, Kuttner
and four others, which began seven months ago, are due to last a
few weeks. The jury is expected to be sent out to consider their
verdict at the end of the month.
(Editing by Tom Heneghan)