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Phone-hacking trial: Two resignations, a government job and a replica gun

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 tells of twin resignations
  • Got Conservative party job via George Osborne
  • Goodman hacking accusations "a thinly disguised blackmail threat"
  • Coulson "did not tell Brooks" about 2004 Blunkett hack
  • Replica gun held to "bullying" journalist's head in Sun newsroom
  • Proceedings resumed after lunch with the jury hearing the final part of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson's evidence in chief on charges of illegal interception of voicemails and conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office. Coulson's defence barrister, Timothy Langdale QC, asked his client if he had given a News of the World legal adviser instructions that arrested Royal editor Clive Goodman would only retain his employment if he did not implicate anyone else. "Absolutely not," Coulson replied, adding that Goodman's claim that he knew about phone-hacker Glenn Mulcaire was "a lie".

    The court was then shown a briefing note from January 2007 from a News of the World legal adviser to a News of the World executive who we cannot name for legal reasons. In the note, the legal advisor stated that Goodman was claiming Coulson agreed to employing Mulcaire. The defendant told the court again that this was "untrue" and that this note was the first time he had been made aware of the allegation which the legal adviser called a "thinly disguised blackmail threat". The defendant told the court he had already decided to resign from his position as editor but had not told anyone at the newspaper. "I had a very clear idea on how I wanted to handle it," he said.

    The court was then told that on 26 January Clive Goodman and Glen Mulcaire were sentenced to prison and it was announced that Coulson was resigning as editor of the News of the World. "I felt it was the right thing to do as I was the boss," Coulson told the court. The resignation was kept quiet, the defendant said, so as not to affect the court hearing. "I did a speech to the staff and they banged me out," he said. The defendant said that he was called by Rupert Murdoch, who "wished me well", as he left the building. The jury was then shown a series of graphics relating to Mulcaire's hacking between 2003 and 2006 and which News of the World staff members were responsible for "tasking" him. These show that Greg Miskiw was named on 56.9 per cent of the notes, James Weatherup on 11.9 per cent and Neville Thurlbeck on 7.3 per cent.

    The defendant was then asked about events that took place after he left the News of the World and he confirmed that on 9 July 2007 he was appointed director of communications for the Conservative party. "I met with George Osborne, who I knew although not well, and later with David Cameron," he explained. After the general election, the court was told, Coulson became director of government communications, but resigned in January 2011. The defendant told the court that he felt "he could not do the job any longer" due to publicity about the issue of phone-hacking. The defendant told the court that he met with Rebekah Brooks two weeks before his resignation but did not tell her he was about to quit. "I thought the first person I should tell was the Prime Minister," Coulson told the court, adding: "There were a lot of people, not just in the Labour party, who wanted me to go." The defendant confirmed he was arrested in July 2011 and gave "no comment" interviews to the police on legal advice. The evidence in chief then ended and Jonathan Laidlaw QC, for Rebekah Brooks, rose to cross examine.

    Coulson told Brooks' barrister that he had not told Brooks about hearing home secretary David Blunkett's voicemails in 2004. "I did not tell her, no" he said. David Spens, for Clive Goodman, then rose to carry out his cross-examination.

    The QC asked the witness about his testimony that he felt he had a "duty of care" to Clive Goodman after his arrest. "I tried to look after him, I did what was appropriate from my perspective and the company's perspective," Coulson told him. Spens put it to the witness that despite this, his position was that Goodman "had falsely implicated you in phone-hacking". "Yes," replied Coulson. "We'll come back to that later," the barrister said. Coulson was then asked about his role as deputy editor to Rebekah Brooks and if he paid close attention to the content of the paper. The defendant replied that he paid attention to "important stories". Spens asked Coulson if he was "pretty hands on" when he edited the paper in Brooks' absence and would be interested in most of the stories in the paper that week. "I wouldn't say I was interested in most stories, no," the witness replied. "You can't be involved in every story, it's impossible," he added.

    The defendant was then given a folder of documents relating to Milly Dowler, the missing teenager whose phone was hacked by a private detective working for the News of the World. Telephone records within the bundle listed a number of phone calls between Coulson and Brooks in the build up to the 2002 edition of the paper that contained the Milly Dowler "voicemail story", and asked if this was typical of the level of communications that would take place between the two when Brooks was away. "It would be dependent on what was happening," he replied, but added: "As deputy editor you would be trying to show you could do the job, you wouldn't go to her with every problem."

    The defence barrister asked the witness about his experience when he took over as editor of the News of the World and Coulson agreed that his background was mostly as a "showbiz reporter". The defendant was asked about "bullying" at the paper and agreed that in the 1980s and 1990s newspapers "were a competitive business and there was a lot more shouting on the newsroom floor, it was temperamentally aggressive as the Sun was a successful but aggressive paper then." The witness was asked about a journalist we cannot name for legal reasons and asked if he was "a thoroughly aggressive individual". "He was a thoroughly decent individual" Coulson replied. "We don't need a character reference," Spens responded, and asked about an occasion where another reporter snapped under pressure and put a replica gun to this journalist's head. "I've never heard that story," Coulson replied, adding that he knew the journalist "did not rate" Clive Goodman but denied his actions added up to bullying.

    Spens put it to the former editor that his client, Clive Goodman, was not confrontational and would take the "course of least resistance and agree with what you suggested". "No," replied Coulson, who added "surely the opposite is the case" and denied he was a "forceful character", although he added: "That is for others to judge." The court then took a short break.

    When proceedings resumed, Clive Goodman's QC put it to the defendant that members of his defence team had "trawled through News International's personnel files" looking for negative reports on his client. "I don't know the process they went through," Coulson replied. The jury was then given a file of documents on Goodman which contained reports on how well he was doing at the paper, noting his "patience and tenacity" and contributions to various issues of the paper including one from Piers Morgan which stated "he gave the opposition a spectacular thrashing" on a story about Lady Diana. This, the QC said, was to give the court "a more rounded" view of Goodman's 19-year-long contribution to the paper. Coulson told the court that at no point "did he think Clive should be fired, but I was always trying to improve his performance", adding: "He did very well during the Diana years but in newspapers you are only as good as your last story."

    The defence QC asked the defendant about Goodman's "Carvery" diary column. Coulson told the court that this was his idea and he wanted it to be "spiky", "waspish" and "sharp" but not "spiteful and backstabbing". The defendant was then asked how many sources he had in the Royal household. "I can only think of one," Coulson replied, telling the court that this was not a reference to Mark Bolland, an aide to Prince Charles who also gave information to the paper until he resigned in 2003. Spens put it to Coulson that he often had dinner with Bolland. "I wouldn't dispute that," the defendant replied.

    Spens then asked about Coulson's other source, who he did not name, who rang the former editor with a story about a gatecrasher at Prince William's 21st birthday party. Coulson agreed that he thought this was his only Royal source "but I'd like to think about that". The Royal source, the court was told, was paid either in cash or under another person's name who would pass the money on. This, Coulson said, "was cleared by the managing editor's office".

    The court was then shown a file of documents about Prince Charles' former private secretary, Michael Peat, whom the paper believed had a "long standing mistress". Coulson was asked if the source of this story was Mark Bolland. "I'm not sure if that's right," Coulson replied, saying: "I don't think I was that interested in this to be honest, my level of interest in this story was not high. If I polled News of the World readers who Michael Peat was I'd get a pretty low result." Spens put it to the witness that he was the one who tasked Greg Miskiw to investigate the Peat story, leading to phone-hacker Glen Mulcaire tapping Peat's voicemail. "I don't think that's right," Coulson replied. "Clive Goodman could have asked him, they are old friends," he added.

    The defence barrister then moved on to another Royal story, this one from April 2006. The court was shown another email about an investigation into Lord Frederick Windsor. Coulson was asked if he had "brought in that story as you had a friend who had an encounter with Windsor who was in a state that brought him concern". Coulson replied that he had a vague memory of hearing Windsor had "fallen off the rails" but said he had to be careful as he did not "want to reveal a source but my memory is it went absolutely nowhere". Coulson was asked if he was interested in Royal stories as they "helped to sell the newspaper". "Yes," Coulson replied.

    Court then rose for the day.

    All of the defendants deny all of the charges. The trial continues.

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