The trial of former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, the prime minister's former director of communications Andy Coulson and six others began at the Old Bailey on 28 October. The Drum will be in court for the duration of the trial, which is expected to last at least four months, and will provide comprehensive updates on this blog.
After a delay for legal argument, court proceedings at the trial of Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and four other former staff of the News of the World resumed this morning to evidence from Coulson who is defending himself from one charge of conspiracy to illegally intercept communications and two of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office.
Timothy Langdale QC, Coulson's barrister, began by asking his client about his career. The defendant said he was planning to join the air force but after getting some work experience at the Basildon Evening Echo, he "fell in love" with journalism and joined the newspaper as soon as he left school at 18. Two years later, the court was told, he joined the Sun as a freelance showbusiness reporter followed by a full-time staff role a year later. Coulson later became the editor of the "Bizarre" column about "film stars, pop stars, TV stars and showbiz more generally". The former editor said that the key to his success was having good contacts and he always aimed to "get the story but do it in a way to retain the relationship". In 1998, Coulson said he was appointed to the role of associate editor of the Sun, the "number three role" at the newspaper.
The defence QC then asked the witness about his resignation from the News of the World in January 2006 and appointment in May 2010 as the prime minister's director of communications. Coulson told the court he began in opposition, advising David Cameron on media strategy for the general election. In government, the court was told, the role changed into working with the civil service as well as advising the Prime Minister. In January 2011, Coulson resigned from that role. In July 2011, Langdale told the court, his client was arrested and interviewed before being charged in 2012.
The defendant was asked about his contacts with Rupert Murdoch after he resigned from the News of the World. Coulson said he had "sparing" contact with Murdoch, mainly at social events and on "very few occasions" when David Cameron met the media mogul. Coulson said that after his resignation, he did spend a weekend with David Cameron but had not spoken to him since he was arrested. Coulson told the court he had very little work in the last few years apart from a "few newspaper articles," and has had to sell his London home. The defendant said that News International had stopped paying his legal fees until he took legal action against them". "They agreed to pay your fees after that," the defence QC asked. "I don't think they agreed," Coulson replied, but confirmed the company was paying his legal bills now.
The defence barrister then returned to Coulson's role as deputy editor of the News of the World. The defendant said the News of the World was a "very different paper from the Sun" with its own approach. The witness said that as the paper was a weekly, "people kept their contacts very close to their chest" and that he was "very surprised by the degree of competition between departments" which had, in his view, become "frankly destructive" as "features and news worked against each other". Coulson told the court he worked with then editor Rebekah Brooks to change this "outdated culture". The defendant said that there had been a high turnover of editors at the paper. "Senior staff just thought we were passing through" and as a result "could be a little bit distant..and more secretive".
The former editor was then asked about his use of private investigators. Coulson said he did not use these while he was a showbusiness journalist but was aware that others did. On working with Brooks, Coulson told the court his former boss was "hard-working" and very focused on staff. Together, the defendant told the court, they had tried to transform the paper through a redesign and investment in new products such as a "football pullout". "I enjoy football," Coulson told the jury.
The court then rose for lunch.
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