Saturday 16 December 2017

'Keep open mind' – NOTW hacking trial told

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson
Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson

Margaret Davis and Ryan Hooper

Jurors in the trial of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson have been urged to keep "an open mind" and told that he will claim the prosecution case against him is wrong.

Timothy Langdale QC told the Old Bailey that it is "relatively unusual" for a defence barrister to make an opening statement to the court, but that there were good reasons for doing so.

He said: "We invite you to bear in mind that what you had heard so far is, perhaps obviously ... just one side of the story. It will be some two months or so before you hear the defence for Mr Coulson present his case.

"This case has as you know an unusual history. It's now being heard in a court of law after years of coverage of one kind or another in both the international and national media.

"You will be hearing from Mr Coulson in due course. We invite you to keep an open mind in all these matters.

"You will draw your own conclusions when you have heard all the evidence.

"The prosecution has a lot to say about Mr Coulson and it's our case that a lot of it is wrong."

Mr Langdale told the jury that former government spin doctor Coulson, 45, from Charing in Kent, will give evidence later in the trial.

He resigned as editor of the tabloid after former royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were jailed for conspiring to hack phones in 2007.

Mr Langdale said: "He will in due course go into that witness box and give evidence to you. He will tell you what happened when he was deputy editor of the News of the World (NotW) and then editor.

"Certainly something went badly wrong at the NotW during his watch. He recognises that and resigned as editor of NotW after Mr Goodman and Mr Mulcaire had pleaded guilty and been sentenced in January 2007 for phone hacking.

"He wishes he had made some different decisions. We shall be saying to you that although he might wish he made some different decisions he did not commit these offences."

The barrister added: "It's his case that he was never party to any agreement to hack phones, whatever others might have been doing on his watch."

Coulson is accused along with Rebekah Brooks, of Churchill, Oxfordshire; former NotW head of news Ian Edmondson, 44, from Raynes Park, south west London; and the tabloid's ex-managing editor Stuart Kuttner, 73, from Woodford Green, Essex. All deny conspiring with others to hack phones between October 3 2000 and August 9 2006.

He is also facing two allegations that he conspired with former NotW royal editor Clive Goodman, 56, from Addlestone in Surrey, and other unknown people to commit misconduct in public office - between August 31 2002 and January 31 2003, and between January 31 and June 3 2005.

Coulson denies knowing that Goodman had allegedly paid a policeman for a book of Royal Family phone numbers.

"He did not believe that Mr Goodman had done any sort of thing," Mr Langdale said.

He told the jury that as editor, Coulson would not have been able to analyse every story prepared for the paper.

"It's far from the being the case that he spent his time perusing every story that surfaced during the course of the week. It was, you will be hearing, a fast changing world where a very large number of stories were produced and considered by a number of reporters, desk editors and sub-editors in the course of the week, a large number of which might fleetingly or maybe never cross the editor's radar."

Mr Langdale also revealed that Coulson's own mobile phone was hacked by Mulcaire.

He went on: "Journalists want to impress, and they want their story under their byline to make the paper and not be spiked. Journalists don't just wander around the editorial floor discussing their sources.

"They keep their sources very close to their chests. If they didn't their rival or rivals within the News of the World or outside the News of the World would snatch the story from under their noses."

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