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Phone-hacking trial: Coulson denies resigning as 'truth was about to come out'

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.

  • Goodman out of proceedings for at least next two weeks
  • News of the World journalist investigated for leaks
  • Single reporter defence "rubbish", claims prosecution
  • Coulson denies he resigned from Downing Street because "truth about to come out"
  • Proceedings resumed after lunch to hear further cross-examination of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson by lead prosecution barrister Andrew Edis QC. Before the former editor resumed his testimony, Mr Justice Saunders gave the jury an update on the situation with defendant Clive Goodman. The judge said that the court had hoped Goodman, who has been unwell, would be back to give evidence this Friday but doctors were unable to carry out a procedure until a week on Friday. Saunders also told the jury that Coulson had been ill this morning but now felt well enough to go on.

    The former editor was asked what he knew about Clive Goodman's Royal source "Matey", which the jury has already heard was phone-hacker Glenn Mulcaire. "My levels of interest were not high," Coulson told the court, stating that he had never inquired who the source was. "As far as I was concerned I was not impressed," he said, adding that he had brought the retainer to an end. "I didn't care much," the defendant added. The former editor then asked Edis: "If everyone knew about the phone-hacking, why is it not mentioned in the email?"

    "You were being careful with your conspiracy," the prosecutor responded.

    The prosecuting barrister then gave the jury a new bundle of documents relating to TV celebrity Calum Best. The first of these was a page from the notes of convicted phone-hacker Glenn Mulcaire which contained the details of a News of the World journalist we cannot name for legal reasons. "These are instructions to hack a phone," Edis suggested. Timothy Langdale QC, Coulson's counsel, then rose to object, saying that Edis was "re-presenting the prosecution case" and this was "repetition". "It's not repetition as we've never seen these documents before," Edis responded, and the judge asked both barristers to move on.

    Coulson told the court that he was "not that interested" in Best and the paper had run one story about him when he was on holiday. The jury was then shown an email in which Coulson complained about the lack of "kiss and tells" in the newspaper saying "Calum is scraping the bottom of the barrel". "It might have been rubbish but Calum was all you had," Edis suggested. "I clearly didn't rate it much," the former editor replied. The witness was then shown a list of calls made by the journalist, and the defendant told the court that there was a concern that stories were being leaked and as the journalist in question was a suspect his company phone records had been accessed on 11 May 2006. The prosecutor asked Coulson if he knew that "as part of the same investigation the journalist was having his phone-hacked". "I didn't know that and would never have approved it," he said.

    The court was then shown a further email exchange between Coulson and another defendant where they discussed suspicions about "Calum being a leak", to which Coulson replied "do his phone". "What did you mean by this?" Edis asked. "I meant check the journalist's phone records," the defendant said. "There is only one name on this email and that's Calum," Edis said. "I would not have requested the hacking of the journalist's phone, I am a friend of his," Coulson said. "'Do his phone' is not particularly friendly," Edis replied. Judge Saunders then intervened and asked if there was any evidence ever produced that the journalist was the source of the leaks. "Not that I remember," the defendant replied.

    Coulson was then asked about a story that appeared in the News of the World as a "spoiler" to a Daily Mail article about John Prescott. The former editor asked if he could see the story first so court took a break while this could be arranged.

    When the jury returned the defendant told the court he had seen the articles concerned and did not believe they had any connection with phone-hacking. The lead prosecutor then moved on to the events after August 2006, after Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire had been arrested for phone-hacking. Coulson was asked if he had been worried for his position. "I was concerned for Clive, I was concerned for the paper and yes, I was concerned for myself," he said. "You knew about another hack, that of Blunkett," Edis said, "and once the balloon went up the fact of the Blunkett business must have been uppermost in your mind." Coulson responded that he had asked if Mulcaire had been involved in the Blunkett hack and been told no but could not remember who had told him. "Who would be able to answer that question?" Edis asked. "I don't know," the former editor replied. "This part of your evidence is clearly invented," Edis suggested. "I was reassured," Coulson replied.

    The prosecutor then suggested to the witness that his actions after the arrests were a cover up and his "rogue reporter" defence was "rubbish", adding "you knew it was rubbish because of the Blunkett hack". The prosecutor continued: "These were life-changing events, if anything is going to stick in your mind it would be that."

    "I'm telling the truth, I can't remember. I wish I could, but it was a fraught and confusing period of time," Coulson said. The defendant was then asked if he had told the police about the Blunkett hack. "No, I did not," he replied. "It was covered up, wasn't it?" Edis suggested. "Not by me," Coulson replied.

    The prosecution barrister then turned to Coulson's resignation statement, which he said was the defendant "not telling the truth to the public". "I took responsibility for it and I resigned, no-one asked me to," Coulson said. "The stance you took was really quite dishonest," Edis retorted. "No, it wasn't," the defendant replied. Edis then said: "You got an important job with the Conservative party, you wouldn't have kept that if they had known about the Blunkett hack."

    "You may be right," Coulson replied. The defendant was then asked about a meeting he had with Rebekah Brooks in January 2011 and if she had told him News International was about to release emails which might "blow out of the water" the single reporter defence. "I don't remember that conversation," Coulson replied. "She gave you no information that your job was about to become impossible?" the prosecutor asked. "It's quite possible that Rebekah told me about developments, there was no doubt in my mind that the story was not going to go away," Coulson replied. "You got your resignation in just before the new police inquiry," Edis said. "The timing of my resignation had more to do with my role in Downing Street than that," Coulson responded. "You knew the truth was going to come out that you were involved in a conspiracy to hack phones," Edis said. "I don't accept that," the defendant replied. The prosecution then ended the cross-examination.

    Court then adjourned 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