Friday, December 10, 2010
Andrew Coulson Day 2 Pt 1
This morning the High Court of Glasgow continued to hear evidence from Andrew Coulson, former editor of the News of the World (NotW) and now Director of Communications at 10 Downing street. Mr Sheridan, who is carrying out his own defence, continued to probe Mr Coulson about his time as NotW editor and in particular his knowledge of allegations of "phone hacking" carried out by a private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire at the behest of NotW royal editor Clive Goodman. (you can find an account of day one of Mr Coulson's testimony Here )
Mr Sheridan began by asking about Mr Coulson's testimony yesterday when he had stated that the judge in the trial of Mr Mulcaire and Mr Goodman had accepted that the NotW's contract with 9 Consulting (Mr Mulcaire's company) was for "legitimate services" Mr Sheridan told the court that he had now had an opportunity to read that judgement, "all 180 pages of it" and he could find "no mention of that." Mr Coulson responded that he believed that to be the case but however he had not been in the court so could not say definitely. The witness added that this had "been widely reported at the time,"
Mr Sheridan then put it to the witness that, as the NotW was paying 9 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 and paid out large sums of money to journalists and for stories. The witness added that this was a "matter of record" and has he did yesterday Mr Sheridan stated that it was not a "matter of record" in this trial until either he or Mr Coulson stated it and asked the witness if he would "keep that in mind" Mr Coulson replied "sure."
Mr Sheridan then asked the witness if, on leaving the NotW, he had signed a confidentiality agreement., Mr Coulson said he had no issues with answering questions and said to Mr Sheridan, "ask away, don't worry." Mr Sheridan responded "I'm not worried about that, I'm worried that you will not answer questions honestly." He then asked the witness if he thought it was in the "public interest to pay someone to keep quiet about criminal activities?"; telling the court that the paper had made payments to Mr Mulcaire and Mr Goodman after their release from prison. Mr Couson stated that this had happened after he had left the NotW and he had "no knowledge" about any payments adding "far be it for me to doubt your word, but show me" Mr Sheridan replied that this was a "matter of record" and that "we will come back to that"
Mr Sheridan then returned to yesterday's testimony from the witness, where he had stated that his legal bills for this case were being paid by News International, (NI) and asked why the "prosecution of my wife and I by the Crown is a News International matter" Mr Couson replied that his only "link" to the case was due to his employment by NI and he thought this was reasonable. Mr Sheridan then asked "Is the prosecution doing News International's job for them in trying to destroy me" Mr Coulson responded "no, certainly not"
Mr Sheridan then asked the witness what his budget as editor of the NotW was. Mr Coulson said this varied but gave an approximate figure of £35 million per annum. The witness was then asked about payments for stories and agreed that a "six figure sum" was not unusual. Mr Sheridan then asked Mr Coulson about his involvement with stories to which Mr Coulson responded that it "depends on the story." When Mr Sheridan accused the witness of having a "slapdash" approach to truth Mr Coulson replied that he always tried to do a professional job but as the paper carried over one hundred stories a week it would not be "humanly possible" for him to check every one.
Mr Sheridan then asked about a NotW journalist, Dan Evans and Mr Coulson agreed that he knew him. Mr Sheridan then asked the witness if he was aware that Mr Evans had been suspended for phone hacking. Mr Coulson replied that he was not aware of the details and had only seen newspaper reports. Mr Sheridan put it to the witness that the suspension of Dan Evans undermined the NotW's contention that the phone hacking affair was the work on one "Rogue reporter" Mr Coulson again stated that this had happened after he had left the paper it that "it doesn't involve me."
Mr Sheridan then asked Mr Coulson how many journalists worked for the NotW in London and how many were news reporters. After some discussion Mr Coulson settled on a figure of around forty. 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 Sheridan put it to the witness that he had presided over a culture of "cash payments" and that when he made mistakes he "ruined people's lives" Mr Coulson stated that he had always done his best to get things right and insisted he "did not set out to ruin anyone's life" At the point Lord Bracadale adjourned the court for a brief break.
More to follow.
Posted by James Doleman at 6:12 PM