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  1. Media Law
May 29, 2014

Coulson defence tells hacking trial case against him was not ‘rigorous, open-minded or fair’

By Press Association

The case against former News of the World editor Andy Coulson was neither "rigorous, open-minded or fair", the hacking trial heard.

A number of "gaps in the evidence" in the prosecution against Coulson (pictured) were highlighted by his lawyer in his closing speech at the Old Bailey yesterday.

Among them was the failure by police to fingerprint members of the royal household to check if one of their number, and not unidentified police officers, was the source of royal directories sold to the NoW, jurors were told.

The prosecution also kept evidence of the extent of former royal editor Clive Goodman's phone-hacking from the jury, leaving it to the defence to expose it for the first time, the court heard.

Coulson, 46, is on trial accused of conspiring to hack phones and conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office by agreeing with Goodman to pay for two royal phone books.

His lawyer Timothy Langdale QC told jurors: "Operation Weeting commenced in January 2011 as a high profile investigation and attracting a high degree of public interest and media scrutiny. It must have been important that it would be a rigorous investigation.

"We suggest as far as Mr Coulson is concerned it has been none of those things – rigorous, open-minded or fair.

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"Case theories have changed at a moment's notice once they have been exposed as impossible.

"Criticisms of the police investigation have been brushed aside for blame to be cast elsewhere, often in News International's direction.

"It's almost as if the juggernaut must keep moving."

Langdale told jurors that it was their responsibility to "do what the investigation so often failed to do – which is scrutinise, analyse, and come to a fair conclusion".

The lawyer gave four examples of what he asserted were failures in the investigation.

He said no one checked details of reporter Dan Evans's evidence that he had hacked actor Daniel Craig's phone and played a message from Sienna Miller to Coulson at a time the editor was at the Labour Party conference in Brighton.

And while the prosecution relied on emails from Goodman as evidence of Coulson's involvement in hacking, it kept from the jury extent of the royal editor's hacking, the court heard.

Langdale said: "For some reason the prosecution decided not to put that evidence before you."

He went on to question email evidence of Coulson ordering to "do his phone".

"How was it that at the beginning of this trial the prosecution told you 'do his phone' meant hack Calum Best when there was no evidence at all Calum was hacked either before of after that communication?" he asked.

And on the charge that Coulson conspired to pay a public official for royal phone books, he said: "The failure to fingerprint members of the royal household as to who it was may have been the source of those directories – you obviously must consider these matters."

Coulson, 46, of Charing, Kent, along with six co-defendants denies the charges against him.

Langdale asked: "If it is the prosecution case the phone-hacking was an open secret at the NoW, why are there no emails requesting hacking or sanctioning hacking?

"Attempts by the prosecution to try and find them produces one – the 'do his phone' email – demonstrably, we suggest, a misconception. The prosecution case is this is a direct instruction to hack in black and white. If it was an open secret and everyone knew, why are there not more?"

He continued: "Lastly this: where is the office cat?

"That apparition, the office cat, has been seized upon by the prosecution, having been used by that thoroughly unreliable witness Dan Evans and picked up by that thoroughly unreliable witness Clive Goodman.

"A notable feature of this case is that the prosecution failed to call before you a single witness to testify that Andy Coulson was involved in phone-hacking at the NoW who does not have an agenda of their own to pursue."

On the evidence of Coulson's ex-personal assistant, prosecutor Andrew Edis QC was "more than capable of making running for a bus look sinister", jurors were told.

Whereas holes in Evans' story left the prosecution "scurrying around trying to put their finger in the dyke", Langdale said.

The lawyer asserted Evans had been "simply fabricating material" about playing Coulson a tape of Sienna Miller's "I love you message" to Daniel Craig in the NoW office.

He said: "The truth is there never was a tape that was put in a jiffy bag and dealt with in the way Dan Evans suggests.

"Sources with the Jude Law camp – on the publicity side and somebody providing a service of some sort – that's where the material came from."

Langdale went on to dismiss Goodman's evidence against his client and accused him of "prima donna-ish behaviour in the witness box".

He said the journalist could "spin a story for dramatic effect and tell lies if it suited him".

He rejected Goodman's assertion that he was bullied and demoted at the NoW.

Langdale said he was "hardly a shrinking violet" when he complained about a colleague in an email to his sister saying: "I feel like peeling his face right off his skull."

Goodman told a "whopper" to the hacking trial when he failed to recall targeting Kate Middleton, Prince William and Prince Harry's phones, jurors were told.

The journalist was accused of lying about the extent of his hacking when he was in the witness box.

Langdale said it was "one of the most gross examples of Clive Goodman's untruths".

Before he was assured he would face no more hacking charges, Goodman told the court he could not recall any hacking other than royal aides and Tom Parker Bowles.

Langdale said: "His counsel described that as a white lie. I'm going to describe it as a whopper. It was totally, utterly untrue."

When he resumed his cross-examination following illness, Goodman resorted to more dishonesty, Langdale said.

When asked why he did not tell the court before about Middleton being hacked 155 times, including on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and Valentine's Day, Goodman said he did not recall the question, the lawyer said.

It was farcical of Goodman to suggest no one had asked him about it before, jurors were told.

The barrister went on: "He said it had been hard for him to recall hacking Prince William at Sandhurst – 'I did not recall specifics'. I have to say it is blatantly a straight lie."

Considering the prosecution chose not to introduce the hacking of the royal family in its evidence, it was "extraordinary" to then suggest in cross-examination that Goodman would have sought the authority of the editor to go ahead with it, Langdale said.

The trial was adjourned until today.

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