View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

  1. Media Law
April 28, 2014

Coulson claim he ran Blunkett affair story because of terror arrest revelation an ‘invention’, court told

By Press Association

Andy Coulson's justification for exposing David Blunkett's affair in the News of the World, because the politician had let slip to his married lover there had been a terror arrest, was dismissed in the hacking trial as an "invention".

The former editor was being questioned in the witness box about a meeting in August 2004, when chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck played him hacked voicemails, including one in which Blunkett (pictured above: Reuters) declared his love for Spectator publisher Kimberly Fortier.

Coulson told jurors that the then Home Secretary sharing "sensitive" information about terrorism and his visits to GCHQ convinced him there was a public interest in pursuing the story based on hacking.

But the Old Bailey heard the resulting story never contained reference to either.

Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC asked Coulson: "If it's something the public ought to know why didn't you tell them?"

Coulson said: "I made a mistake."

Edis went on: "This public interest stuff is just an invention by you built around the voicemails.

Content from our partners
<a></a>Key ways to futureproof your media career as journalism job cuts bite deep
Slow online ads cost UK publishers £50m a year: Here's how to fix them
Mather Economics and InsurAds combine to help publishers boost revenue

"If the terrorism arrest had mattered to you in the slightest it would have been somewhere in this story but it's not is it? Where is it in this story?"

Coulson replied: "My mistake. I took the decision to follow a different path in the story."

He said if he had run the terrorism line, it would have led to calls for the home secretary to resign and "I chose not to do that".

Edis asserted: "What you thought was, this is a cracking story."

Coulson replied: "I certainly thought it was a story and something I had to give proper and serious thought to."

The court heard that around the time Coulson went to Sheffield to confront Blunkett about the affair, he exchanged texts and phone calls with on-off lover Rebekah Brooks, who was Sun editor at the time. But he denied telling her what he was doing.

He said: "There was closeness between Rebekah and I that the court has heard about but that did not extend to the sharing of each other's exclusives. There was a clear line drawn."

He said there was "no deal" between the News of the World and the Sun to share the story and the suggestion that there was, was "completely wrong".

Coulson, 46, of Charing, Kent, is charged with conspiring to hack phones with Brooks, 45, and others. The two former editors also face separate charges of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office. All seven defendants deny the charges against them.

Edis went on to say that the evidence showed that Thurlbeck carried on hacking Fortier's phone after Coulson initially told him to stop on 21 July, 2004.

In light of the Blunkett story being published, judge Mr Justice Saunders asked: "Was there not a risk members of the newsdesk were doing exactly the same thing because they also got it wrong?"

Coulson replied: "There was a risk but I felt rightly or wrongly they would bring it to the attention of the lawyer or me."

The court heard that in October the same year, Coulson went to a breakfast meeting with a view to hiring reporter Dan Evans, who has previously admitted hacking.

But Coulson said: "I certainly did not know Dan Evans was a phone hacker."

Email to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network