In the light of today's news of Andy Coulson's resignation (see Here ) We thought that readers might like to read an summary of Mr Coulson's answers to some of the key questions put to him during the Sheridan trial about his knowledge of "phone hacking" during his time as editor of the News of the World.
On his resignation as editor of the News of the World
Mr Coulson told the court that he had left after one reporter on the paper was convicted of a crime and he had "taken the ultimate responsibility and stepped down." Asked what this crime was the witness stated that it involved "illegal phone hacking" and that he had "no knowledge of it."
On Glenn Mulcaire (convicted of phone Hacking)
Mr Coulson told the court that he had never had any contact with Mr Mulcaire and had not even known his name until Mr Mulcaire had been arrested. Mr Coulson aslo told the court that he had been aware that Mr Mulcaire's company, "Nine Consultancy" had been used by the NotW as the witness had once asked a head of a department to reduce the money the paper was paying the company. He insisted however that this was his only knowledge of Nine consultancy and that, in relation to Mr Mulcaire, " I never met him, spoke to him or emailed him."
It was then suggested that the News of the World had paid Nine Consultancy around £105,000 per annum. Mr Coulson that it was "about that" but added that this was for what he called "legitimate work" adding that the judge in the "Goodman case" had accepted this. Mr Sheridan asked about other payments made to Mr Mulcaire, the witness told the court that there were other payments but these had happened "without my knowledge" Mr Sheridan then put it to the witness that, as the NotW was paying Nine Consultancy £105,000 a year he should have known more about the company than he appeared to Mr Coulson answered that the NoTW had a large budget (around £35 million per annum) and paid out large sums of money to journalists and for stories
Mr Sheridan then produced into evidence a copy of a page from a notebook, that the court has previously heard was seized by police on a raid on the home of private investigator, and convicted phone hacker, Glenn Mulcaire. This shows Mr Sheridan's name, address, telephone number and what appear to be "PIN" numbers for accessing mobile phone voicemails. There is also a date on the notebook, 14/09/04. Mr Coulson denied that he had any knowledge of this or that the News of the World in London and instructed Glenn Mulcaire to "hack" Mr Sheridan's phone. Mr Sheridan put it to the witness that Mr Mulcaire had an "exclusive contract" with the NotW but again Mr Coulson denied any knowledge of the matter.
Mr Sheridan put it to the witness that another private investigator involved in phone hacking, Steve Whitamore, had a "blue book" which listed journalists who used his ser vices and that it listed Twenty one NotW journalists, over half of his news staff. Mr Coulson replied that a long list of newspapers and other media outlets had used Mr Whitamore for legitimate services and the NotW journalists he listed may not have been full-time reporters but perhaps freelancers and contractors. Mr Coulson also told the court that he had never had any dealings with Mr Whitamore. or asked anyone else to deal with him.
Mr Coulson said he did not know the specifics on individual journalists and indeed had not thought about the issue for "quite some time." Mr Coulson then challenged Mr Sheridan's figure of 21 journalists which he called "not right" although when asked for a specific number he stated that he did not know. Mr Sheridan asked Mr Coulson if Steve Whittamore had been used by the News of the World "while you were boss" The witness again said he did not know. Mr Sheridan then said that Steve Whittamore had been convicted in 2005 and this had happened "under your watch" Mr Coulson said he had not been involved with Mr Whittamore "in any way, shape or form" and added "in relation to you Mr Sheridan there was nothing untoward." Mr Coulson also stated that Mr Whitamore's services were used "across the industry, including the Guardian group."
Relations with the police
Asked about the NotW's relationship with the police, Mr Coulson said that it could be "difficult" however the NotW exposed "wrongdoing and criminality" and sometimes worked with the police on that.
Asked if the witness was familiar with an Andy Hayman. Mr Coulson told the court that Andy Hayman had been the assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police and sometimes wrote for the Times. Mr Sheridan asked if Mr Hayman had been in charge of the investigation into "phone hacking at the News of the World" the witness replied "he may have been"
Mr Coulson told the court he once had a meal with Mr Hayman but their relationship was "entirely proper" and he thought that "every editor on Fleet Street" had done the same. Mr Sheridan asked if the NotW held any information on Mr Hayman that could have been used to intimidate him into not carrying out a proper investigation. Mr Coulson denied the NotW held any personal information on Mr Hayman
Mr Coulson if he was aware that at the time of the investigation into alleged phone hacking at the News of the World Mr Hayman had resigned from the police force, the witness replied "he may have" Mr Sheridan then asked Mr Coulson if he was aware of what Mr Hayman was doing now. The witness replied that Mr Hayman "writes occasional pieces for the Times," which he agreed was part of the same newspaper group as the News of the World. Mr Sheridan then asked "The former police officer who investigated the News of the World got a job with News International?" Mr Coulson replied :"if you are insinuating there was a deal, there was none." Mr Sheridan responded "just answer the question, he got a job with News International" to which the witness replied "Yes, but first I don't know if he has a job or is a freelance and second it happened long after I left so I can't help you." Mr Sheridan put it to the witness that this "stinks of corruption" Mr Coulson replied "I absolutely disagree Mr Sheridan"
A culture of hacking?