Former editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson and ex-managing editor Stuart Kuttner are on trial at the Old Bailey accused of conspiring to hack phones with others between October 2000 and August 2006.
Summing up the case after seven months of evidence, prosecutor Andrew Edis QC told jurors: "There was a rotten state of affairs at the top of the organisation.
"This is not an attack on the freedom of the papers. It is not an attack on tabloid papers. It is nothing of the kind. We accept a free press is an essential part of the protection of a democratic society. The ultimate protection of a democratic society is the rule of law. But the rule of law applies to newspapers in the same way as it does to anybody else."
The trial was adjourned until today.