Phone-hacking trial: Coulson tells court of Goodman arrest, build up to resignation

By James Doleman

April 23, 2014 | 10 min read

    Andy Coulson arrives at court this morning

  • Coulson denies knowledge of royal family hacking
  • Had "bee in bonnet" over Prince William not singing national anthem
  • Former editor tells of journalist's arrest, call to Rupert Murdoch
  • Was told by "legal advisor" no other journalists involved in phone hacking
  • Did not "volunteer information" to police investigation
  • Day 101 of the phone hacking trial opened this morning to hear further evidence from former News of the World editor Andy Coulson on charges of conspiring to illegally intercept communications and commit misconduct in a public office.

    Coulson's counsel, Timothy Langdale QC, began proceedings by presenting to the court documents showing communications between the defendant and former royal correspondent Clive Goodman in 2006. The jury has already heard that Goodman was using the services of convicted phone hacker Glenn Mulcaire to gather information of members of the royal family. Coulson denies having agreed to this and claims he was not aware of Mulcaire's activities.

    The defendant was asked about an email from Goodman to him. "I'll have that list of Matey's results... getting stronger and stronger since William started at Sandhurst". Coulson replied that he understood that "matey" was the reporter's term for his source adding: "I don't think I paid much attention to it, this was another example of Clive wanting his hand held while producing a story." Asked about another email, the defendant told the court that he had met a friend's son at a wedding who ran a website called "Holy Moly" who had complained that Goodman was taking content from his site without crediting him. The former editor said he had spoken to Goodman about it but did not recall what the outcome was.

    The next email shown to the court was from Goodman to Coulson stating that the "matey" source was value for money and asking for his weekly payment to be continued. Coulson replied "sorry but it has to go". The defendant said he did not remember the mail but it seemed self-explanatory. A few days later, the court was told, Goodman asked if the "matey" payments could continue for another week to track the movements of Prince William and Kate Middleton, to which Coulson replied "fine". The former editor said he did not recall this exchange but had no reason to doubt the content.

    The defendant was then asked about an email he sent to Goodman about Prince William not singing the national anthem. Coulson said he had been watching the FA Cup final and had noticed the prince was not singing and as he had "a bit of a bee in his bonnet" about players not singing the anthem he had contacted Goodman to ask what the protocol was. "Perhaps he had a sore throat," Judge Saunders remarked. Asked about Goodman's mention of "Natalie Pinkham and landlines" the defendant said he had "no idea what he was talking about" and denied he would have thought of voicemail interception in relation to the mail.

    On 8 August 2006, the defence barrister reminded the court, Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire were arrested for intercepting communications. Coulson told the court he was at home and received a phone call telling him police were outside the office looking to search Goodman's desk. "As the day went on more information trickled out." The defendant told the court that "I do not believe I had heard the name Glen Mulcaire before that date". Coulson told the court he called Rupert Murdoch and had a "brief conversation" during which Murdoch told him "the most valuable thing a newspaper has is the trust of its readers".

    The defendant was then asked about legal advice he received at the time and told the court that up until the arrest "no one knew that voicemail interception was illegal", adding that he had legal advice that the legislation being used "was for catching terrorists". Coulson told the court: "It was quite shocking to have the police on the newsroom floor and I was concerned for Clive, I felt, rightly or wrongly that we had a duty of care over him. I was not going to take the role of investigator."

    The defendant was then asked about his role around Goodman after his arrest. The former editor agreed he had a meeting with another two members of News International staff and a lawyer, Henry Brandman and later on the same day called Goodman to "tell him he had been suspended". Coulson added: "I also told Clive his legal fees would be covered and he would continue to be paid." The defendant denied that on this occasion he had advised Goodman to plead guilty or that he had told the royal editor about conversations he had with police. "I never told Clive Goodman he should plead guilty, it was not for me to tell him what to do."

    The defendant told the court he met Goodman in the Cafe Rouge about 10 days after his arrest out of "concern for how Clive was doing". Coulson told the court: "I gave Clive some reassurance and I genuinely held the view that, as bad as this was, it did not have to mean the end of Clive's working life." The defence barrister asked "why be sympathetic to Clive Goodman?" "That's how I felt," Coulson replied, adding: "I was concerned about the paper, and the company, and also, to be honest, concerned about me. But also concerned about Clive."

    The former editor was then asked about Goodman's testimony that Coulson had suggested he had "went off the reservation". Coulson replied that he thought this was accurate as the royal editor had "went behind my back" but denied he had used the phrase "lone wolf". Asked about Goodman recording the conversation, Coulson said: "I suspected it, he had a combat jacket on and kept fiddling with it, but I had nothing to hide so if he wanted to tape the conversation that was up to him." The defendant told the court that his recollection was that the two men "parted on good terms" although he could not recall what the exact last words were.

    The defendant told the court that after speaking to Goodman's sister, Fran, who was chief sub-editor at the News of the World, he had offered the journalist some work doing book serialisations, "just to give him something to do, there was concern about his state of mind". The court was then shown a September 2006 email sent to him which consisted of a note of a meeting Rebekah Brooks had with the police to discuss the case during which she was told there were around 100 hacking victims. Coulson said this supplemented his knowledge of the case.

    He told the court that not long after the arrests he asked if Glen Mulcaire had been involved in the David Blunkett voicemails, which he listened to in 2004, and had been told he had not. Asked by his defence barrister who had told him this, Coulson replied "I can't say precisely who I asked" and suggested that it might have happened at a conference. The former editor told the court he "put up no barriers" to the police investigation but "didn't volunteer any information" as he "did not want to make things worse". Coulson told the court that he had been aware of problems between Goodman and his barrister, John Kelsey-Fry. "I don't think Clive was being totally honest with him," he said.

    The former editor was then asked about Goodman's evidence that he had told him other journalists had been involved with Mulcaire. Coulson said he had spoken to a News International legal advisor, who we cannot name for legal reasons, who had assured him that these contacts did not involve intercepting voicemail communications.

    Court then took its morning break.

    When proceedings resumed Timothy Langdale, QC for Coulson, asked his client about his knowledge of a meeting between the News of the World legal advisor and Clive Goodman at Carluccio's restaurant in London which Goodman secretly recorded. In the transcript read to the court the legal advisor tells the royal correspondent that "Andy could not guarantee him a job after his conviction" which the defendant agreed was his understanding of the situation. The former editor said he did not recall receiving a report back from the meeting.

    The court was then shown a transcript of a telephone call between Coulson and Goodman in which the journalist tells the former editor about the News International "portal number" which meant police could not track individual numbers called from the offices. "I think I was slightly baffled in the conversation," the defendant told the court. Coulson denied any suggestion he was trying to influence Goodman to plead guilty. "That was a decision for him," he told the jury.

    There was then a short interruption to proceedings as Judge Saunders pointed out that one of the barristers had "fallen off his chair" which led to some laughter in court.

    The jury was then shown an email about a draft statement by Coulson apologising to the victims of phone-hacking and stating new guidelines had been put in place. The News of the World legal advisor mentioned above replied telling the defendant that this may be unwise as it might cause Goodman to think he was being cut loose by the paper and "might tilt Mulcaire into reacting". Coulson told the court the concern was that Mulcaire might "say something outside court, talk to the media", saying "I didn't want to say anything that might things worse for Clive" and adding "there were legal implications but also media implications, we were expecting pretty awful media coverage."

    The former editor told the court that in November he asked his PA to "discretely" start printing off his draft emails as "at this point I was thinking I might have to resign", he told the court, adding that he finally made this decision over Christmas after speaking to his wife.

    The court was then shown a November email exchange between Coulson and Rebekah Brooks in which they discuss a forthcoming Guardian story about phone hacking. Coulson was asked what he meant by "this is not helpful as it's all going well today" as this was the day Goodman pleaded guilty. The defendant replied: "When I first saw this I thought I might have been being sarcastic, it was a disastrous day for the paper and for me personally." Coulson told the court that he may have been referring to media coverage of the case which "had been pretty straight and not exploded like some had feared". The defendant told the court that at this point, December 2006, there was no suggestion from Goodman that he was going to implicate him in phone hacking.

    Court then rose for lunch


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