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November 28, 2012

Andy Coulson wins legal costs appeal against News Group Newspapers

By PA Media Lawyer

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson won his appeal today against a High Court ruling that News Group Newspapers (NGN) does not have to pay his legal costs arising from the phone-hacking affair.

Coulson, 44, who resigned in February 2007, sued NGN over the construction of a clause within a severance agreement.

He went to court seeking a declaration that the company, which stopped reimbursement in August last year, "must pay the professional costs and expenses properly incurred" by him "in defending allegations of criminal conduct" during his tenure.

Lord Justice Laws, Lord Justice Sullivan and Lord Justice McCombe, sitting at the Court of Appeal in London, allowed his appeal today.

Coulson, who has always denied any wrongdoing, resigned from his position as Prime Minister David Cameron's director of communications in January last year, saying that coverage of the scandal was making it too difficult for him to do his job.

It is open to NGN to seek to take the case on to the Supreme Court – the UK's highest court.

At last December's High Court hearing, NGN's counsel told Mr Justice Supperstone that the clause covered the "occupational hazards of being an editor" and not alleged criminal activity.

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It maintained that, if there was an obligation, it was triggered at the stage when proceedings are complete.

At the Court of Appeal earlier this month, the three judges agreed to an application by Coulson's lawyers to admit fresh evidence relating to the criminal investigation.

This included material in the press, which NGN would neither confirm nor deny, that Rebekah Brooks and some current employees of the Sun appeared to have been indemnified in respect of some criminal proceedings as they went along, rather than waiting until the end.

The action concerned the "true construction" of clause 4.6 of an agreement dated February 26 2007 which was entered into between the parties on the termination of Coulson's employment with NGN.

Lord Justice McCombe, giving the unanimous ruling of the court, said Coulson's submission was that NGN's obligation, pursuant to that clause, "is to pay his reasonable legal costs properly incurred in all types of proceedings, including criminal proceedings, concerning his conduct as editor of the NoW".

He announced that he was "satisfied" that "clause 4.6 does cover Mr Coulson's costs and expenses of defending the criminal allegations".

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