Monday 19 February 2018

Andy Coulson 'knew what was going on' - former NotW reporter

Former News of the World editor and Downing Street communications chief Andy Coulson arrives for the phone-hacking trial at the Old Bailey
Former News of the World editor and Downing Street communications chief Andy Coulson arrives for the phone-hacking trial at the Old Bailey
Former News of the World Editor Andy Coulson at the Old Bailey, London

Emily Pennink and Helen William

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson stared out from the dock as a former employee told the hacking trial his old boss knew "exactly what was going on on his watch".

Dan Evans was being cross-examined by Coulson's defence lawyer during a third day in the witness box at the Old Bailey.

Following a lengthy exchange about who at the defunct Sunday newspaper knew about the illegal activity, Evans raised his voice and declared: "The truth is that Andy Coulson knew exactly what was going on on his watch."

Coulson looked up in the dock and exchanged stares with the witness, who has already admitted his part in hacking into the voicemails of celebrities.

Evans, 38, has claimed Coulson knew about his activities and told him a voicemail he taped from Sienna Miller to Daniel Craig exposing their alleged affair was "brilliant".

The former NotW employee was eventually caught out trying to hack into designer Kelly Hoppen's voicemails, and then lied to police with the excuse his Nokia phone had "sticky keys", the court heard.

Speaking clearly in the witness box, Evans said that statement was "cobblers", adding: "I bitterly regret I did not take a braver course of action at the time."

During the cross-examination by Coulson's lawyer Timoth Langdale QC, jurors heard about Evans's eventual decision to co-operate with the police investigation into hacking at the NotW.

By December 2011, he had launched an attempt for immunity from prosecution, but the fact that he had lied about hacking Ms Hoppen's phone was "the fly in the ointment".

In a police interview in July 2012, which was read out in court, Evans said: "I can pinpoint the moment many years ago I took the wrong path.

"I want to look my kids in the eye and tell them they need to be honest... I want to go down my life on the right path."

Asked by Mr Langdale about how the quest for immunity fitted in with Evans's statement that he wanted to be able to look his children in the eye, the reporter said: "As you appreciate, you take guidance from your lawyers."

As negotiations continued for immunity, Evans told solicitors that he had hacked the phones of Cilla Black, racing driver Jenson Button and at least one other, the court heard.

But the bid failed and in August last year, Evans signed up to an agreement to give police a full briefing on his involvement in hacking, enter guilty pleas, and agree to give evidence in court if needed.

Evans told the court hacking was an "open secret" in the office, saying: "I was conscious that what I was doing was wrong.

"Other reporters asked me to do things on their behalf, usually at the behest of the desk."

Pressed on the subject again by Mr Langdale, he repeated: "I did not broadcast it because that would have been crass but everybody knew."

Questioning why Evans would claim hacking was discussed in editorial meetings he never attended, Mr Langdale said: "You are prone to making sweeping assertions that are not based on fact."

Evans replied: "That is not correct, sir, even though I can imagine why you would want people to think that."

Mr Langdale asked Evans about the taped voicemail from Miller to Bond star Craig and the allegation that Coulson knew about it, saying: "I suggest to you that is not true."

Evans replied: "I did not see you there at the time. It is true."

The witness was further challenged on Coulson's reaction on hearing the voicemail.

The barrister asked: "Yesterday you told this court Mr Coulson, when you played the tape voicemail message of Sienna Miller, to you said 'Brilliant!'. Is that truthful evidence?"

Evans replied: "That is truthful. The exact word may be paraphrasing."

Mr Langdale said: "You have got a bit of a habit of doing that."

Evans joined the News of the World in 2005 after he was poached from the Sunday Mirror.

The court heard that Evans has already admitted conspiracy to hack phones at the Sunday Mirror between February 2003 and January 2005, and the same offence at the News of the World between April 2004 and June 2010.

He also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office between January 2008 and June 2010, and perverting the course of justice by giving a false statement in High Court proceedings.

Former NotW editor Coulson, 46, a PR consultant from Charing, Kent, denies conspiring to hack phones and conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office.

Seven defendants, including former Sun and NotW editor Rebekah Brooks, deny all the charges against them.

The trial was adjourned until 10am tomorrow

Press Association

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