Profile: Andy Coulson

Andy Coulson Andy Coulson has always denied any knowledge of phone hacking at the NoW

Many months after it came to light, No 10's former spokesman remains at the heart of the phone-hacking scandal.

When Andy Coulson stepped down as Prime Minister David Cameron's communications director in January last year, he blamed the continuing row over phone hacking, saying it was difficult to give the "110%" he needed in the role.

The ever-expanding row has presented the 44-year-old with ongoing distractions - he was arrested in July 2011 over phone hacking at the News of the World (NoW) and corruption allegations before being released on bail.

On 30 May 2012, Mr Coulson was formally arrested by Strathclyde Police and charged with perjury as part of a separate investigation into evidence at the trial of former MSP Tommy Sheridan. He left the police station the same day.

Then on 24 July 2012, the Crown Prosecution Service said he was being charged with conspiracy to illegally intercept communications.

It said Mr Coulson would face four charges linked to accusations of accessing the phone messages of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, former Labour home secretaries David Blunkett and Charles Clarke, and Calum Best - the son of the late footballer George Best.

Mr Coulson said that he would fight the allegations against him.

Starting out

Mr Coulson had climbed to dizzy heights since starting out as a reporter on a regional newspaper.

He was born and brought up in Wickford, Essex, and educated at the local state school, Beauchamps Comprehensive.

The devoted Tottenham Hotspur fan began his career at the Basildon Evening Echo, before joining the Sun and rising rapidly through the ranks of News International.

TIMELINE

  • 1986 - Andy Coulson starts work at Basildon Evening Echo
  • 1988 - He joins The Sun
  • 1994 - Has a brief stint at the Daily Mail before returning to News International
  • 2003 - Becomes editor of the NoW
  • Jan 2007 - Resigns on same day as Clive Goodman is convicted
  • Jul 2007 - Becomes the Conservative Party's director of communications
  • May 2010 - following the general election he takes up a similar job in Downing Street
  • Jan 2011 - he resigns
  • Sept 2011 - Takes legal action against his former employer after it stopped paying his legal fees in relation to the phone-hacking scandal
  • May 2012 - Gives evidence at the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics
  • May 2012 - Arrested and charged with perjury by Strathclyde police
  • July 2012 - Charged with conspiring to intercept communications by Met

His progress led to him being poached briefly to work at the Daily Mail before he was tempted back to the Sun where he edited the newspaper's Bizarre gossip column.

He went on to become the NoW's deputy editor in 2000, and succeeded Rebekah Wade as editor three years later.

His reign saw a string of old-fashioned tabloid exclusives, lifting the lid on the private lives of David Beckham, David Blunkett and Sven-Goran Eriksson.

The paper won the Press Gazette Newspaper of the Year award in 2005.

When he won the award, Mr Coulson was quoted as saying: "The NoW doesn't pretend to do anything other than reveal big stories and titillate and entertain the public, while exposing crime and hypocrisy."

He quit as NoW editor in January 2007 on the day Clive Goodman, the paper's former royal editor, was jailed for four months for phone hacking.

Mr Coulson said he took "ultimate responsibility" for the scandal, even though he maintained he was unaware of any phone hacking by his journalists.

His resignation statement said Goodman's actions were "entirely wrong and I deeply regret that they happened on my watch".

A Press Complaints Commission investigation in May 2007 found no evidence that he or anyone else at the paper had been aware of Goodman's activities.

That month Mr Coulson became the Conservative Party's director of communications.

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Reports suggested he had been hired on a salary of about £475,000.

At the time of the appointment, a Tory spokesman said the party was satisfied Mr Coulson had not been to blame for the phone-hacking scandal.

Mr Coulson then played an important role in building support in Fleet Street for Tory leader David Cameron. In particular, he is credited with helping get the pre-election endorsement of the Sun.

Tim Montgomerie, editor of the ConservativeHome blog, said Mr Coulson's tabloid touch and right-wing instincts brought much-needed balance to the Cameron team.

However, he was accused by one former senior Tory press officer of being a divisive figure.

The New Statesman alleged he was "micro-managing" his staff, and had insisted that he sanction every announcement and policy decision personally.

When the Conservatives entered government in a coalition deal with the Lib Dems in May 2010, Mr Coulson followed Mr Cameron into Downing Street on an annual salary of £140,000.

Although working in the background, Mr Coulson was a key figure in the new administration, and drew comparisons with Tony Blair's former director of communications, Alastair Campbell.

But, as revelations about the NoW's activities grew, pressure mounted on him to resign his politically sensitive post.

Heated exchanges

In November 2010 he was interviewed as a witness by police.

The following month Mr Coulson, giving evidence at the perjury trial of Scottish politician Tommy Sheridan, denied presiding over "dark arts".

He denied knowing of Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator at the heart of the phone-hacking inquiry, until the Goodman court case.

He told the court: "I don't accept there was a culture of phone hacking at the News of the World."

Mr Coulson also denied he been given a payoff to keep quiet by the NoW.

"There is nothing I am not prepared to discuss in relation to my time at the News of the World," he said during heated exchanges with Sheridan, who was later convicted.

That same month the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, said no new charges would be brought in the case, owing to a lack of admissible evidence.

But the Crown Prosecution Service later said it would review all the material held by police about phone hacking at the NoW.

A fresh investigation into phone hacking followed after Scotland Yard received "significant new information".

Police said they were contacting almost 4,000 people whose names appear in documents seized in 2005.

News International later closed the NoW.

In September 2011 Mr Coulson's lawyers filed papers at the High Court against News International subsidiary News Group Newspapers.

This marked the start of his legal action against his ex-employer, after it stopped paying his legal fees in relation to the phone-hacking scandal.

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