Andy Coulson launches legal fees battle

 

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson took his ex-employer to the High Court today over its refusal to reimburse his legal fees arising from the phone-hacking affair.

Mr Coulson, 43, is suing News International subsidiary News Group Newspapers over the construction of a clause within the severance agreement entered into when he resigned from the paper in February 2007.

His counsel, James Laddie, told Mr Justice Supperstone in London that it stated: "To the extent that it is lawfully able to do so, the employer will pay any reasonable professional (including, without limitation, legal and accounting) costs and expenses properly incurred by the employee after the termination date which arise from his having to defend, or appear in, any administrative, regulatory, judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings as a result of his having been editor of the News of the World."

He asked for a declaration that NGN, which stopped reimbursement in August, "must pay the professional costs and expenses properly incurred" by Mr Coulson "in defending allegations of criminal conduct" during his editorship.

Mr Coulson, who was arrested in July over the allegations and released on bail, resigned as Prime Minister David Cameron's director of communications in January, saying that coverage of the scandal was making it too difficult for him to do his job.

Mr Laddie emphasised today: "I should make it clear at this stage that the claimant denies any allegations of wrongdoing."

He said that NGN's broad position was that, whatever the clause meant, it did not cover criminal allegations.

Mr Coulson was not in court for the contested hearing, which is due to last up to a day.

Mr Laddie said that Mr Coulson's construction of the clause was supported by what might be presumed of both sides' intentions at the time that they entered into the agreement.

This was that they had a joint interest in taking steps to protect Mr Coulson from allegations of wrongdoing whilst he was the editor and to advance his defence against such allegations - not least because NGN would be vicariously liable and might also bear corporate criminal liability for any allegations made against its senior directors.

Such allegations were "not entirely hypothetical" when the agreement was entered into in early 2007, as the convictions of reporter Clive Goodman and investigator Glenn Mulcaire could not eliminate the possibility that further proceedings might ensue in relation to activities at the News of the World.

It was common ground that the parties' joint interest was served by NGN reimbursing Mr Coulson's legal fees in the event that he was involved in regulatory proceedings arising out of his editorship, such as participation in the Leveson Inquiry.

Such interest would be served to at least the same degree by reimbursing his legal fees in the event of threatened civil and criminal proceedings in which the conduct of the paper during his editorship was challenged, Mr Laddie said.

"Accordingly, the parties' commercial incentives reflect the ordinary and natural meaning of the clause, which is the meaning for which MrCoulson contends."

He added that NGN's construction of the clause was offensive to a fundamental principle of English criminal law - that a man was innocent until proven guilty.

If its construction was adopted, it would mean that NGN would bear no responsibility for the payment of Mr Coulson's legal costs even where no charges were preferred or where he was acquitted of criminal charges.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Publishing

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst - High Wycombe - £30,000

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst role...

Guru Careers: Talent Manager

£30-35k (P/T - Pro Rata) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienc...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn