Friday, January 21, 2011

Andy Coulson's Testimony, Key Points

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.

Steve Whitamore
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?
asked about a House of Commons committee report which had claimed that the NotW "turned a blind eye" and "at worst actively condoned" bugging and hacking in the newsroom. Coulson replied: "I don't accept there was a culture of phone hacking at the NoW. There was a very unfortunate, to put it mildly, case involving Clive Goodman. No one was more sorry about it than me; that's why I resigned."


Bunc said...

I must be clear that I am not alleging here that Coulson has actually perjured himself in the TS case.

However, based on your report of his testimony, then IF there were to be any pursuit of Coulson for alleged perjury in this case it would need to be founded on evidence which established one of the following;

1) That he did know that illegal phone hacking was going on ( whether or not he actively encouraged it)

2) That he had in fact met or had some other form of contact with Mulcaire.

3) That he had in fact had knowledge of other payments to Nine Consultancy eg that there are papers indicating such payments that had been seen by him or evidence that he was told of such payments.

4) That he had more detailed knowledge of the contract between NOTW and Nine Consultancy than he admitted.

5) That he did have knowledge or contact with Mr Whitamore and / or did have knowledge of the use of Mr Whitamore by NOTW staff and / or that there is evidence that he had asked NOTW staff to deal with him.

6)That he had a more substantial relationship with Andy Hayman than he admitted to.

7) That there exists some evidence of a deal between NOTW / NI and Andy Hayman and evidence that Coulson was aware of this.

These are the points on which Coulsons testimony needs to be further tested from my reading of your report of his evidence.

Given the increasing evidence that phone hacking was more endemic than so far admitted the questions that arise are;

a) Whether there is sufficient grounds now to believe that Coulson should be actively investigated for possible perjury?

b)How should such an investigation be pursued?

c) Is it credible or appropriate for the police simply to be allowing the NOTW to be "investigating " and "looking for evidence" into its own or its senior emloyees potential wrongdoing or should the police now themselves be actively pursuing and seizing evidence?

d) Given the seemingly passive and uninterested response of the Met to the whole affair should the investigation now be handed to another force?

There are obvious answers to these questions which the MET and others must now address.

Anonymous said...

I just had to laugh! Many followers of this blog saw this coming.

I am quoting your article here, James;

"Dec 26, 2010
It was rumored in court that Mr Coulson was not happy about being told that he could not use his phone in the witness room telling staff, “that could be the Prime Minister calling!” He was informed that the rules applied to everyone, ..."

Clearly Coulson did not see it coming at all!

However this has little to do with the Sheridan Perjury trial, despite Sheridan's attempt to make the link.

Hoping you get a good seat on 26th!

Curious said...

James, was posting rumours from court i such a good idea if you are trying to claim the impartiality as far as this blog is concerned ? I'm sure there were lots of rumours floating about that someone like you who was in court every day must have heard, don't remember you sharing any others.

James Doleman said...

Hello Curious, I never did post that rumour on the blog, I only mentioned it in a Guardian piece after the verdict which was about the experience of blogging the trial.

Best Regards


paw said...

Oops that was me; paw.

I hate all these anonymous contributors!

I just had to laugh! Many followers of this blog saw this coming.

I am quoting your article here, James;

"Dec 26, 2010
It was rumored in court that Mr Coulson was not happy about being told that he could not use his phone in the witness room telling staff, “that could be the Prime Minister calling!” He was informed that the rules applied to everyone, ..."

Clearly Coulson did not see it coming at all!

However this has little to do with the Sheridan Perjury trial, despite Sheridan's attempt to make the link.

Hoping you get a good seat on 26th!

Peter said...

Bunc that is a good start.

I repeat your caveats that Coulson is entitled to due process and currently faces no charges.

You have quite a list there but remember as in the Sheridan trial only ONE of the matters on your list needs to be proved for a perjury conviction.

Some matters are more difficult to investigate than others.

The police could start with the easy bits simply by asking the people Coulson denied ever meeting/phoning/emailing if they had met him or if they knew he knew they were tapping.

Also remember there needs to be more than one persons word against another ie. one more person as a witness is needed or a clear evidence trail eg. emails.

(But then again the Crown did bring uncorroborated charges against Sheridan - so we will see.)

You will not have failed to notice, in terms of evidence trails, that in the Sheridan trial the NOTW testified that they had a major problem with their email server.

They said they had "lost" their email archives for that whole period - not just emails concerning Tommy.

That may cause a problem with an investigation into the matter you raise and the other cases being examined by the CPS and in the civil suits.

It may be worth highlighting here that Tom Watson MP has complained to the ICO as a result of that testimony and asked for evidence regarding huge loss of emails.

Say It Ain't So Joe said...

As I have said previously I appreciate that as you are more familiar with procedure south of the border corroboration is a notion you may be less familiar with than you may want to be.

You say:-
"(But then again the Crown did bring uncorroborated charges against Sheridan - so we will see.)"

What the Crown did was bring charges and lead evidence.Clearly some charges were proven once the Crown put corroborated evidence to the jury.Elsewhere when corroboration was lacking either the Crown deserted (Moat House) or the jury found not proven.

I fear that you see conspiracy and dark forces where none exist. The Crown will , I am sure, have precognosed the case thoroughly. In precognition witnesses will have spoken to matters which the Crown is entitled to test. Precognitions, even when taken by the most experienced practitioner, don't replicate what happens once a witness is in the box. No amount of precognition can do what Paul McBride did to Mr McColl.

To use a phrase, McBride broke McColl in half.He was exposed and the Crown had no option to drop him.That doesn't however, make the Crown culpable in leading him.

I am afraid, however, that doesn't make it wrong in any way that the Crown put the evidence before the jury.

In Scotland any PF or AD is an officer of the court. As such their task is to offer all and any assistance the court needs to ensure that justice can be done.
As the Crown proceeds on the basis that any witness it chooses to call must be exposed to robust cross-examination by the defence (and where the defence has latitude the Crown doesn't have when leading) I don't see what is inherently wrong in the Crown bringing charges which rely on the swings and roundabouts of parole evidence to be proven or not.

As far as I can see Lord Bracadale charged the jury properly and carefully to base any finding of guilt solely on corroborated evidence and to find Tommy Sheridan not guilty if charges against him were not corroborated.

Tommy Sheridan has been found guilty by a jury of his peers. It is clear Peter that you don't like the verdict. I am afraid, however, that to date , juries have proven to be the best defenders of liberty and justice one can hope for. What is the alternative? A 'Certificate of Guiltiness' signed by the Chief Constable as John Mortimer once quipped to silence a jury murmurer? Of course not.

Please Peter, enough. Respect this verdict and pray that you are never tried by a jury I sit on as much as I pray I am never tried by a jury you sit on.

Christian Schmidt said...

I'd be interested when the NOTW 'lost' all its emails? If it was after the first allegation (2006?), then I wonder if it couldn't be construed as deliberately hampering the investigation.

My understanding is that in a criminal investigation, if there is some evidence that a certain fact is true, then when any further evidence relating to the fact is lost by the accused after the investigation started, judges and juries have every right not to believe the accused claim that is was lost accidentally.

Anonymous said...

This is worth a read.

Peter said...

Say It Ain't So Joe

My full response is amended for length.

a) I do respect and accept the jury verdict. I have said so repeatedly. Your view that I do not respect the jury is also very wrong.

I do continue have reasonable concerns regarding aspects of the Crown prosecution especially their pursuit of uncorroborated charges. That is not murmuring but I see how you could be confused.

b) In Scotland prosecutors should not pursue uncorroborated charges.

The Crown clearly did so when it made an unsupported serious charge of "subornation" - the alleged Beanscene incident.

That the Crown did so does not make it right to do so. It is indicative that the Crown deleted this charge itself.

So Joe I have a respect for the jury and a respect for the law of your own land regarding corroboration - which I hope you now do so also.



Avid Reader said...

Surely Tommy Sheridan deserves some praise for his part in the resignation of Andy Coulson.

People on this blog have posted comments accusing TS of taking the News of the World to court to get money from them.

I don't believe that was his motive. I think he genuinely wanted to fight News International, which operates in a way that is anathema to him, and to many other people.

And I think his motive for calling Andy Coulson and other NotW people to be witnesses in his perjury trial was only partly to prove his case. He was also continuing his fight against the Murdoch empire.

Obviously things haven't gone entirely to plan - I don't imagine worldwide exposure of his private life, a perjury trial and a probable jail sentence figured in his early calculations.

But his original idea of exposing News International is working, and as more and more information comes out about the whole phone-tapping business, I think his part in it should be appreciated.

Say It Ain't So Joe said...

Cheers - a robust and pithy response. I think we will have to agree to disagree.



Watcher 1 said...

Hey! A fairly reasonable overview of the state of play so far.
Avid editor (the video variety)

AKA Watcher 1

Bunc said...

It just keeps getting better.

It seems that quite a number of journalists were in the habit of taping their calls with their editors ( not just at the NOTW possibly) and that the tapes of at least one NOTW journalist have passed into the hands of lawyers. It is claimed that the tapes were handed to the police who - surprise surprise - claim they havent head of them.

The irony of it eh? The NOTW hacks into celebs voicemails illegally and tapes made by its own employees may play a part in bringing the whole stinking mess crashing down. You couldn't make this up.

The reaction of other parts of the print media is interesting given that there is clear evidence that all the major media groups probably have either directly used these hacking methods or used information which was obtained by freelancers who were using these methods.

It may be some little consolation for TS that in calling Coulson to the stand he has played a small part in this developing crisis for the NOTW, NI and possibly the wider print media.

Check out these stories;


Bunc said...

Sorry - the last link I included had already been posted by someone above.

Eraserhead said...

Give this man James the award now please, he deserves it.

I'd be lost without this blog.

The permutations in this story are mindblowing...

Good luck to you sir, keep yer ears to the ground and yer typing fingers sharp... and that's despite the fact that you didn't publish a couple of my comments recently, ya so and so... :0)

Steve said...

Save yourself a pound - nothing on TS in the NOTW today.

Anonymous said...

Anyone want to bet on coughing up a £1 for next week's NOTW - could be a Collector's Edition.