LONDON A U.K. prosecutor says three senior journalists at the defunct News of the World tabloid have already pleaded guilty to hacking phones.
Lawyer 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.
The case sees former News of the World top editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, as well as several others, facing charges stemming from the revelation that the Rupert Murdoch tabloid eavesdropped on the voicemails of celebrities, politicians, and crime victims.
The defendants all deny the charges, but Edis said Wednesday that the guilty pleas already entered show "there was a conspiracy which involved a significant number of people."
Nine women and three men wereto hear the phone hacking trial - and were warned by the judge to ignore a morass of "inaccurate and misleading" reports about the high-profile case.
Judge John Saunders told the jury at London's Central Criminal Court that the case had received "an unprecedented amount" of publicity that they must ignore in order to try the defendants on the evidence alone.
"Not only the defendants are on trial; British justice is on trial," he said.
Saunders said much U.K. commentary on the case had been "inaccurate and misleading" as well as "offensive and demeaning to some of the defendants."
"It is essential that you put all that material ... out of your mind," he said.
The judge also told the jury to ignore the storm of chatter about the case, from tweets from opinionated celebrities to the satirical magazine Private Eye, which emblazoned a picture of the flame-haired Brooks on the cover of its latest "Halloween special" issue.