UK

Hacking trial: Coulson 'not trying to pull the wool' over jury's eyes

Andy Coulson at Old Bailey Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Andy Coulson denies conspiring to hack phones and conspiring to commit misconduct in public office

Andy Coulson was "far from perfect" but did not try to "pull the wool" over the jury's eyes when giving his "upfront" evidence to the phone-hacking trial, his lawyer has said.

In his closing remarks at the Old Bailey, Timothy Langdale QC said Mr Coulson was "responsible and diligent" when editor of the News of the World.

No "plain English" document linked him with phone hacking, he added.

Mr Coulson is one of seven defendants on trial. They deny all the charges.

'Albatross'

Finishing his speech, Mr Langdale told the jury Mr Coulson was "far from perfect, either professionally or personally. He made mistakes and errors of judgement, as he himself freely told you".

But he said questions had been answered "without shilly-shallying, without obfuscation and without changing his story".

Earlier, Mr Langdale told the court Mr Coulson's admission that he heard voicemails relating to former Home Secretary David Blunkett in 2004 had been "hung around his neck like an albatross".

Mr Coulson has told the court when giving evidence in April that he had not known at the time that the material had been obtained by an illegal act.

He admitted one of his reporters had told him he had hacked voicemail messages left by Mr Blunkett on his lover's mobile phone that suggested the two were having an affair.

Public interest

Mr Coulson said he told the reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, to "stop" investigating the home secretary.

However, when the story was "re-pitched" to him weeks later, Mr Coulson decided to travel to Sheffield to see Mr Blunkett, Mr Langdale said.

By then Mr Coulson had heard some of the voicemail messages which referred to "terrorist arrests" a "visit to GCHQ" and the fact the home secretary was thinking of making the affair public, the court was told.

All of these factors had made Mr Coulson think there was a public interest in the story, Mr Langdale said.

He described the News of the World as a "hard-hitting" newspaper, not afraid to take risks.

The barrister admitted Mr Coulson had not "been honest" with Mr Blunkett about the source of the information but said he may have been influenced by the News of the World's relationship with the politician.

He had not revealed hacking to be the source of the story because at the time, he thought it would only be a breach of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) code, which was "hardly terrible", Mr Langdale said.

The subsequent admission that he heard the voicemail had been used by the prosecution to make "broad brush sweeping claims", Mr Langdale said.

Mr Coulson denies charges of conspiracy to hack voicemails and making illegal payments to public officials.

As well as Mr Coulson, former News of the World editor Mrs Brooks, former managing editor Stuart Kuttner, former royal editor Clive Goodman, former head of security at News International Mark Hanna, Mrs Brooks's husband Charlie Brooks and her executive assistant Cheryl Carter are on trial on various charges.

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