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UK phone-hacking trial: Who is Andy Coulson?

By CNN.com Staff
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 1532 GMT (2332 HKT)
Andy Coulson arrives at the phone-hacking trial at the Old Bailey court in London on January 27, 2014.
Andy Coulson arrives at the phone-hacking trial at the Old Bailey court in London on January 27, 2014.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Andy Coulson left News of The World after its then-royal editor was jailed for phone hacking
  • Coulson said he knew nothing about the hacking but resigned because he had been editor
  • Then-opposition leader David Cameron later hired Coulson as his director of communications
  • Coulson went on trial in October 2013. He was found guilty of conspiracy to hack phones

(CNN) -- Britain's phone-hacking scandal has seen former tabloid editor Andy Coulson move from the newsroom into the full glare of its spotlight.

Coulson was editor of the News of the World when evidence of illegal eavesdropping at the newspaper first emerged in 2005.

As the fallout worsened, accusations of Coulson's involvement put even Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron - for whom Coulson later worked as communications director - on the defensive.

On June 23, Coulson was found guilty of conspiracy to hack phones in a trial that opened last October at the Old Bailey in London, the UK's Press Association news agency reported.

The trial saw prosecutors sift through Coulson's personal life as well as his professional career, with allegations, by prosecutors, that he and co-defendant Rebekah Brooks carried out a six-year affair being cited as evidence of their level of trust.

Coulson began his career in journalism at The Basildon Echo in 1986, moving to the Sun in 1989 and the Daily Mail in 1993.

Rebekah Brooks' brief court appearance
Prosecutors: Defendants having an affair
Phone Hacking Trial Continues
Rebekah Brooks' brief court appearance

In 1994, Coulson returned to The Sun, editing its "Bizarre" section, which focuses on showbiz news and gossip. Four years later he was promoted to the position of Associate Editor.

He joined News of the World as its Deputy Editor in 2000, rising to the position of editor when Rebekah Brooks took the role of Chief Executive at News International.

In January 2007, Coulson resigned from the News of the World after its then-royal editor, Clive Goodman, and a private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, were jailed for hacking into voice-mail messages left for royal aides.

Coulson said he knew nothing about the hacking but resigned because he was editor of the paper at the time.

In July of that year, then-opposition leader Cameron hired Coulson as his director of communications. Cameron became British prime minister in 2010, and Coulson moved with him to Downing Street.

In January 2011, Coulson resigned as Downing Street spin doctor as coverage of the phone hacking scandal broadened. He insisted he was innocent but said he had become a distraction for the government.

The original police investigation into phone-hacking had ended with Goodman and Mulcaire's convictions, but reports had continued to surface of the "dark arts" of the tabloid newsroom and a "culture of phone hacking." Police reopened their investigation the same month Coulson stepped down.

In April 2011 News of the World officially apologized for hacking into voice mails from 2004 to 2006.

The scandal exploded in July with the revelation that one of the hacking victims was Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old British girl whose phone was hacked after she disappeared in 2002. She was later found murdered.

Arrest

Days later, Coulson was arrested in connection with allegations of phone hacking and corruption.

"I came in today voluntarily as I have been offering to do in the last few months," Coulson told reporters outside Lewisham Police station at the time. "There is an awful lot I would like to say but I can't."

The scandal prompted questions over the British Prime Minister David Cameron's judgment in hiring Coulson.

Cameron went on the defensive at a Downing Street news conference saying: "The decision to hire him was mine, and mine alone."

He said he gave Coulson a second chance after receiving assurances that he had not been involved in wrongdoing at the newspaper.

Questioned at the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics the following May, Coulson said Goodman and Mulcaire's phone-hacking convictions did come up in discussions with senior party members before he was offered the job.

He told the inquiry he had told them and Prime Minister Cameron that he knew nothing about the practice of hacking under his leadership of the paper.

He also denied he was hired because of his links to News International [since rebranded News UK], the British arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which runs the UK's biggest selling daily tabloid, The Sun.

Coulson said he had explained to Cameron and then-shadow chancellor George Osborne that his connections would not guarantee the backing of Murdoch's papers, and that they should reach out to a wide range of news outlets.

The Sun switched its allegiance from the Labour Party to Cameron's Conservatives ahead of the 2010 election, which resulted in the formation of a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.

Coulson said he never witnessed a conversation that was "inappropriate" between members of the government and News International.

Cameron at Leveson

The following month, Cameron also told the inquiry Coulson had given him and others assurances that he knew nothing of the phone hacking while he was editor.

Cameron said he knew that Coulson's appointment would be "controversial" but that the party felt his experience as a tabloid editor meant he was tough enough for the high-pressure role.

The prime minister said he thought Coulson had done "the honorable thing" in resigning.

Asked if he regretted the appointment, Cameron acknowledged it had come back to haunt both him and Coulson.

"You don't make decisions with 20/20 hindsight," he said.

"I made the decision I made," he said. "I don't try to run away from it, I just try to explain why I made it."

While in the role, Coulson performed well and behaved entirely properly, he added.

In July, 2012, the Crown Prosecution Service announced that eight people - including Coulson - would face charges related to phone hacking. Charges against one of the eight were later dropped.

Coulson said he would fight the charges, stressing that he "wouldn't and, more importantly, that I didn't, do anything to damage the Milly Dowler investigation."

He said his tabloid, quote "worked on behalf of the victims of crime, particularly violent crime, and the idea that I would then sit in my office dreaming up schemes to undermine investigations is simply untrue."

Phone-hacking trial

The trial opened in October 2013.

In November, prosecutors alleged that Coulson had a clandestine affair with co-accused Rebekah Brooks from 1998-2004, which they argued showed the pair's level of trust.

Referring to a letter she had written to Coulson and which was produced in court, Brooks -- who was later cleared of all charges against her -- said: "Andy and I were incredibly close at the time. He was my best friend. I think that comes across." She denied there had been a long-standing affair but acknowledged there had been periods of physical intimacy.

The alleged affair was seized on by UK media covering the case, with one newspaper - The Independent -- headlining its story "The affair they didn't expose," a reference to the tabloid newspapers' history of revealing other people's cheating.

The BBC and Guardian newspaper reported that when Coulson gave evidence in April - with his wife watching from the public gallery - he said the affair "shouldn't have happened."

But he denied that it meant he and Brooks had shared sensitive stories, the outlets said.

In January, a former News of the World journalist told the trial that his phone hacking skills were the main reason Coulson had hired him.

Dan Evans testified that even "the office cat" knew about phone hacking at the tabloid. "Coulson knew it," he claimed.

However, Coulson has consistently denied any knowledge of phone-hacking. He claims he never heard the name of Glenn Mulcaire, the previously convicted private investigator, until Mulcaire's 2006 arrest for phone-hacking for News of the World.

Coulson took the stand at the hacking trial in April. The Guardian reported that Coulson testified that "with hindsight" he had displayed some carelessness.

" Having being presented with all of this [as a result] of this very long investigation, I accept that I did not do enough. It doesn't mean I was party to [illegal activity at the tabloid]," the Guardian quoted him as saying.

Jurors disagreed, finding Coulson guilty of conspiracy to hack phones between 2000 and 2006. However, they were unable to reach a decision on charges of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office and he will face a retrial on those charges.

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