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  1. Media Law
July 22, 2015

News of the World’s Coulson and Edmondson ordered to pay £150k and £75k towards hacking trial costs

By PA Mediapoint

Former Number 10 spin doctor Andy Coulson (pictured, Reuters) has been ordered to pay £150,000 towards the costs of the marathon hacking trial.

Coulson, 47, returned to the Old Bailey last month to fight the prosecution's application for £750,000 after being found guilty of being involved in hacking the phones of a host of personalities while editor at the News of the World.

His legal team argued no more than £375,000 would be a fair sum for the father-of-three to pay towards last year's £1.7m trial.

Today, Mr Justice Saunders issued his judgment that he should pay £150,000 over three years after taking into account his financial position.

Last July, the former editor was handed an 18-month jail sentence after being found guilty of plotting at the tabloid to eavesdrop on private voicemails for scoops following a nine-month trial.

He served less than five months behind bars before being released in November last year, only to go on trial again in Scotland on a perjury charge, which later collapsed.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Saunders stated: "There is no doubt that his financial situation and that of his family has been seriously affected by his prosecutions both in England and Scotland.

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"Prior to that he had had well paid jobs as a journalist and then working for the Conservative Party and the Government in communications.

"He has had to rely on freelance work since January 2011 and his ability to work has been restricted by the need to prepare for trials and his imprisonment.

"The effect on his reputation by the conviction and the publicity attaching to the trials has also made it difficult for him to attract work."

But the judge said Coulson was a "hardworking, talented and intelligent" man who with his wife now run a company which they hope to earn a living from.

During the costs hearings, the court was told Coulson had sold his London home and moved to a cheaper house in Kent.

However, Mr Justice Saunders noted that it was still a "substantial property" with £550,000 in equity, half of which was Coulson's with the remainder belonging to his wife.

Coulson valued his assets apart from his interest in his house at £22,668.46 and his liabilities as nearly £50,000 including £28,000 for loans to help fund his children's private education.

The senior judge acknowledged a "persuasive and helpful" letter from Coulson's wife Eloise, who pointed out the effects of the publicity surrounding the trial on their children and how their school had helped them through "an extremely difficult time".

But he said: "As compared with most of the population, Coulson is well off and most people are not in a financial position to exercise a choice to educate their children privately," adding: "I do not see why the school fees should be funded or contributed to by the taxpayer."

He concluded: "There is no doubt that Mr Coulson is capable of earning substantial sums of money on the labour market.

"The only thing that has stopped him from doing so recently has been this criminal charge and its consequences.

"Many talented people have gone on from criminal convictions to earn a good living and, in the normal course of events, I would expect Mr Coulson to do that.

"In my judgment it is likely that Mr Coulson will be able to re-establish himself and pay a substantial order for costs if given time to pay."

In the same judgment, former NoW news editor Ian Edmondson was ordered to pay £75,000 over a year.

Last autumn, Edmondson, 46, of Raynes Park, south-west London, pleaded guilty to the hacking plot as he was about to face a retrial, having been dropped midway through the original trial with Coulson due to ill health.

The Crown had calculated his share at £111,000 while Edmondson's legal team argued he should pay nothing at all, due to his reduced circumstances.

Since he served two months of an eight-month sentence, he has been living alone in his four-bedroom house – worth more than Coulson's – to be near to his children and estranged wife.

The court was told that the house was worth £1m with £600,000 in equity which would be split with his wife if they were to sell up.

Mr Justice Saunders stated: "Again I understand and respect Mr Edmondson's desire to play a full and active part in bringing up his children together with his wife.

"The reality is, however, that he is living in a very valuable property in which he has sufficient equity to pay a substantial sum to recompense the prosecution for some of the costs of prosecuting for the crime he ultimately admitted committing."

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