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Phone-hacking trial: 'I am not a bully,' Andy Coulson tells court

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.

The trial is scheduled to examine seven counts that include conspiracy to intercept communications in the course of their transmission, conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office, and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Coverage will be provided by James Doleman, who was acclaimed for his exhaustive and responsible reporting of the Tommy Sheridan perjury trial.

  • Coulson was at Labour party conference on day voicemail tape was allegedly played to him
  • Former editor denies knowing of Sienna Miller/Daniel Craig hack
  • Saw actor Jude Law as a "source" so dropped negative language
  • Coulson's own phone was hacked from inside News of the World office in 2006
  • "I am not a bully," Coulson tells court
  • Court resumed after the Easter break to hear further evidence from former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who is giving evidence in his defence on one charge of conspiracy to illegally intercept communications and two of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office. The defendant's counsel, Timothy Langdale QC, began proceedings by asking his client about Dan Evans, a previous witness in the case who has testified that he played a tape of a voicemail from actress Sienna Miller to Coulson at the News of the World's office on 28 September 2005.

    The defendant was asked about the 2004 meeting where he recruited Evans to the News of the World and if the subject of phone-hacking was raised. "Not that I remember," Coulson replied. The witness added that if he had known about previous News of the World job offers to Dan Evans he would not have met with him. "I saw moving from the Sunday Mirror as a step up and felt he had let the paper down," the former editor said. Coulson said he did not recall the details of the encounter but thought "it must have been a brief meeting as I don't remember it".

    The defence counsel then asked Coulson about Evans' testimony that he had played Coulson a voicemail from Sienna Miller in 2005. "Did this happen?" Langdale asked. "No it did not," the defendant replied. The court was then shown an article from a series of pieces relating to Sienna Miller and her relationship with Jude Law. Coulson told the court: "It was a long running saga, not just for the News of the World, The Daily Mail was as interested as we were, in terms of a showbiz story it was quite a big story." The defendant was asked about an email in which Evans was described as carrying out "special checks" on Miller. "I don't think it meant anything to me at all, all reporters think their checks are special." The court has already heard that Evans was hacking the phone of Sienna Miller's step-mother, Kelly Hoppen.

    Focus then turned to Evans' claim that on Tuesday 28 September 2005 he played Coulson the Sienna Miller tape. The court was shown a page from the former editor's diary which showed he was at the Labour party conference in Brighton on that day meeting with Charles Clarke and Jack Straw as well as attending various social events. "These are not meetings I would have cancelled," the defendant said, adding: "I'm pretty sure I went to Blair's speech that year." An email from a journalist, Dominic Mohan, from 28 September was then shown to the jury in which he told Coulson: "Good to see you last night." The former editor's diary from that date included meetings with Gordon Brown, Geoff Hoon and John Reid as well as an evening "press ball" at the Natural History Museum. Coulson told the court that the News of the World had a "good relationship" with Gordon Brown and John Reid in 2005 and given the range of meetings he had that day he did not think he would have returned to the office that day.

    The former editor was then asked what he knew about "sources" the News of the World had in relation to Sienna Miller and Jude Law. Coulson said one of his journalists, who we cannot name for legal reasons, had "two sources" who were only referred to in court as source one and source two. "I knew the name of one and the profession of the other," he told the court. Another journalist had a source who was a "relative of Jude Law". Judge Saunders asked if one of the sources was a "publicist or PR person" and the witness agreed they were. The former editor was asked about Dan Evans "doorstepping" actor Daniel Craig over the Sienna Miller story. "I'd expect the journalist to take a photographer with him, the picture is as important as the words for a newspaper," Coulson told the court, adding that he would have expected department heads to "put some watches in place" either by a using a staff photographer or contacting a freelance.

    Court then took a short break.

    When the jury returned to their seats, Mr Coulson's defence barrister brought into evidence further emails between his client and others discussing the Sienna Miller/Jude Law story quoting further information from "sources". The defendant agreed that none of the mails stated or implied that there was any interception of voicemails involved in getting the story. The court was then shown a draft article: "World exclusive: Sienna falls for hunky actor Daniel Craig." Coulson told the jury that the story was "odd" as the text of the story contradicted the headline, adding: "It's a very strange piece of copy." The defendant told the court he did not remember reading it. He added that his understanding at the time was that "Jude [Law] knew that his relative was talking to us and he knew his PR was talking to us."

    The court was then shown the final story that appeared in the News of the World on 8 October 2005. The court was shown a memo from Coulson asking his editors to "avoid calling Jude Law a love rat or a sex addict". The former editor said that as he now felt the paper was "in a relationship with Jude and he was a source so we should avoid those negative terms". Mentions on email that Dan Evans had conducted "checks" did not, Coulson said, make him think there may have been voicemail interception going on. "That's what journalists are paid to do, check facts," he told the court. "People in and around celebrities, their friends, their relatives and their agents talk to journalists, it's what happens," he added.

    Defence counsel then said he had concluded this chapter of evidence and moved on to ask his client about former News of the World news editor Greg Miskiw. Coulson told the court he became editor in January 2003 when Miskiw was already in place and he stayed until December. He then moved to the News of the World in Manchester before joining Mercury press agency in 2005. The defendant told the court that Mercury was an "agency in the north" that all national papers used from time to time. Coulson was asked if he was aware Miskiw had stayed in contact with News of the World Royal editor Clive Goodman. "It wouldn't have surprised me if they were close," the former editor replied, but denied he knew about Miskiw's contacts with phone-hacker Glenn Mulcaire.

    "I never heard the name Mulcaire until he and Goodman were arrested in 2006," the defendant said. Coulson told the court that Miskiw's move to Manchester was a demotion. "After I had become editor it didn't work out particularly well with Greg, we were different types of journalists, we had a different approach," he said. Coulson told the court that he had made sure Miskiw received a generous redundancy settlement to ensure "he got what he was due for all the work he had done for the paper".

    The witness was then asked about his relationship with a publicist we cannot name for legal reasons. The former editor told the court he had made a "business decision" over the publicist who was "standing between us and people who wanted to get their stories in the paper" and taking a fee "from both sides". The relationship, Coulson said, came to an end over a story relating to Kerry Katona "which I wanted to print because it was true". The publicist had objected so the former editor told the jury he "broke off the relationship".

    The defence counsel then moved on to the fact that Coulson himself had his phone hacked by Glenn Mulcaire and from inside the News of the World's office in Wapping. The defendant said he had been informed of this by police in 2009.

    Coulson was then asked about his relationship with former News of the World Royal correspondent, and co-defendant, Clive Goodman. The former editor said: "I liked Clive, I got along perfectly well with him," adding that the general view on Fleet St was that "he had done good work in the Diana era". Coulson told the court that he thought Goodman saw himself as a future news editor at the paper and "he always carried some disappointment that this did not happen". Goodman had his own column, "Carvery", but as it was not a great success Coulson later replaced it with one called "Blackadder" written by Mark Bolland who had previously worked for Prince Charles. As Bolland had "other professional commitments" however, his output dropped and Coulson put Goodman back in charge of the column.

    Coulson told the court he never demoted or demeaned Goodman. "I spent a lot of my time doing the precise opposite," he said, and he denied he had ever "bullied" the former Royal editor. "I am not a bully," the defendant said, adding: "I don't want to bang on about this but I never did anything to undermine Clive Goodman." The former editor did say that he "accepted responsibility for the blurred lines" in Goodman's role. Finally, Coulson was asked if he knew Goodman was involved in hacking voicemail messages. "Absolutely not," the defendant replied

    Court then rose for lunch

    Click here to view more posts from The Drum's daily phone-hacking trial coverage