Steve Coogan tells inquiry he has no more skeletons left in his closet

 

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The Independent Online

Comedian Steve Coogan told the Leveson Inquiry yesterday that his "closet is empty of skeletons" because of the years of stories intruding into his private life.

The Alan Partridge star spent two hours outlining two decades of iniquitous treatment by British newspapers. Mr Coogan, who is also suing the News of the World for alleged phone hacking, said: "I am an actor, comedian and a writer. I never entered a Faustian pact with the press. I did not become successful in my work through embracing or engaging in celebrity culture. I never signed away my privacy in return."

Noting that it had been clear for a number of years that "some tabloid editors and proprietors" did not approve of his occasionally colourful personal life, he added: "I do not believe that gives them the right to hack my voicemail, intrude into my privacy or the privacy of people who know me, or print damaging lies."

When asked to provide evidence for his assertions, Mr Coogan highlighted two occasions on which he said he had been targeted by Andy Coulson, former head of communications for David Cameron, while he was working for Rupert Murdoch's News International.

Mr Coogan said he was telephoned by the journalist Rav Singh, a "casual friend" of the actor who at the time was working as a reporter for The Sun's show-business column, then edited by Mr Coulson. Mr Singh had called him to tip him off that a woman with whom he had had a relationship was about to call him from Mr Coulson's office and entice him into confirming details of their affair while the editor listened. Mr Coogan said he was then able to thwart the trick.

In a second instance, Mr Singh, by now working for the NOTW, called him in 2004 at a time when his marriage was breaking down with an offer to keep certain "lurid" details of an affair out of a story in return for confirming less salacious information. Describing how he had agreed to the offer, Mr Coogan said: "After that, my manager received a phone call from Andy Coulson saying they had recorded the whole phone call and they were going to print it in the newspaper." The encounters were part of a prolonged period in which the actor said he was often under surveillance, with photographers sitting outside his home and reporters occasionally going through his bins.

The inquiry heard that Mr Coogan did not consider that the press had conducted a personal vendetta against him but instead operated like the "mafia – nothing personal, just business".

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