Profile: Andy Coulson

  • 3 June 2015
  • From the section UK
Andy Coulson

Andy Coulson is the former spokesman for No 10 who reached the highest levels of his profession - before coming crashing down as a result of the phone-hacking scandal.

Coulson edited one of Britain's most famous newspapers and became a trusted member of the prime minister's inner circle, but ended up in jail.

When he stepped down from his role as David Cameron's communications director in January 2011, he blamed the continuing row over phone hacking, saying it was difficult to give "110%" to his job.

Six months later, Coulson was arrested over phone hacking at the News of the World (NoW) and corruption allegations.

He was to face four charges related to accessing phone messages, relating to murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, former Labour home secretaries David Blunkett and Charles Clarke, and Calum Best - son of the late footballer George Best.

Essex boy

Coulson was born in 1968 and brought up in Wickford, Essex. He was 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.

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

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


  • 1986 - Andy Coulson starts at Basildon Evening Echo
  • 1988 - 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 royal editor Clive Goodman is convicted of phone hacking
  • Jul 2007 - Becomes Conservative Party director of communications
  • May 2010 - Following the general election, he takes up a similar job in Downing Street
  • Jan 2011 - Resigns from post
  • July 2011 - Arrested over phone hacking
  • Sept 2011 - Takes legal action against his former employer after it stopped paying his legal fees in relation to the phone-hacking scandal
  • July 2012 - Charged with conspiracy to illegally intercept communications
  • July 2014 - Jailed for 18 months
  • June 2015 - Cleared of perjury over evidence he gave at a trial in 2010

Coulson's reign at the NoW 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.

At the time, 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.

Coulson said he took "ultimate responsibility" for the scandal, even though he maintained he had been unaware of any hacking.

Later that year Coulson became the Conservative Party's director of communications, on a reported salary of about £475,000.

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

Find out more

Listen to BBC Radio 4's profile of Andy Coulson

Coulson played an important role in building support in Fleet Street for Tory leader David Cameron. In particular, he is credited with helping get the endorsement of the Sun before the 2010 election.

Tim Montgomerie, editor of the ConservativeHome blog, said 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.

Growing pressure

When the Conservatives entered government in coalition with the Liberal Democrats in 2010, Coulson followed Mr Cameron into Downing Street on an annual salary of £140,000.

Although working in the background, 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 Coulson to resign.

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

Shortly afterwards, 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.

Criminal charges

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

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

News International later closed the NoW.

Coulson appeared before the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics, set up in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal, in May 2012.

Later that year he was charged with conspiring to intercept communications, and in July 2014 he was convicted and jailed for 18 months.

His glittering career shaping major news stories and working at the heart of government was in tatters.

He was released after spending fewer than five months in prison, apparently under rules which allow some non-dangerous inmates to move to home detention.

But that wasn't to be the end of his time in court.

In June 2015 he was cleared of perjury after a case against him collapsed at the High Court in Edinburgh.

He had been accused of lying while giving evidence in the 2010 trial of ex-MSP Tommy Sheridan, but his lawyers successfully argued that there was no case to answer.