A Channel Nine program "tricked up" a car by installing cameras and microphones to record a former Sydney mayor as he allegedly ordered a hit against a male prostitute, a court has heard.
It is alleged that illegal recordings were made in May 2008 by A Current Affair producer Andrew Byrne and reporter Ben Fordham who posed as a hitman during conversations with former Waverley mayor James Markham.
The pair, along with Channel Nine are facing charges in the Supreme Court breaching the Listening Devices Act after the recordings were broadcast on May 28 and 29.
Crown prosecutor John Pickering told the court during his opening address that Mr Markham's nephew Adam Tolmie had told Byrne about a secret recording he had made in which his uncle has solicited him to "at least bash, if not kill" a male prostitute in Sydney.
Instead of taking the allegation to police Channel Nine decided to investigate the alleged offence, Mr Pickering said.
Fordham was assigned to the story and he and Byrne discussed what roles they would play in recording another conversation with Mr Markham about the alleged hit.
The court heard Mr Markham, who is facing charges of soliciting to murder the male escort, was too ill with Parkinson's disease to give evidence in the listening devices case.
Charges against Mr Tolmie had been dropped in return for his evidence against Channel Nine and its employees, the court heard.
Mr Tolmie was expected to tell the court that a Channel Nine car had been "tricked up" with listening devices to capture the conversation with his uncle, Mr Pickering said.
Mr Tolmie was not interested in going to police about his recorded conversation.
"He did not intend to go and bash of kill or do anything or even investigate who it was that he was being hired to attack," Mr Pickering told the court.
Rather than immediately taking the matter to police A Current Affair decided to track down the male escort, known as "Alex" to tell him of the alleged hit on him, the court heard.
The program had also engineered an on-camera "hug session" between Alex and Mr Tolmie in which Mr Tolmie would be thanked for thwarting the alleged hit, Mr Pickering said.
Fordham had told police of the conversations half an hour before the first story went to air, Mr Pickering said.
"The Crown case will be that Ben Fordham had no lawful interest in involving himself in this matter to record conversations with James Markham," he said. "The Crown case will be that the intention of Mr Fordham was to create a good story and that was the interest that he had ... "
The hearing, before Justice Elizabeth Fullerton, continues.