Andy Coulson was himself a victim of hacking while editor, his barrister tells jury

Ian Burrell, James Cusick

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The Independent Online

Andy Coulson, David Cameron's former Director of Communications, will take to the witness stand to say that he "didn't play any part in the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone and was never part of any arrangement to hack her phone - or anyone else's", his defence barrister told the Old Bailey today.

In an opening speech, Timothy Langdale QC appealed to the jurors to withhold their verdict until they had heard Mr Coulson’s defence – which might not be for another “two months”. Mr Langdale said: “He will, in due course, go into the witness box and give evidence to you.”

In an address lasting around 20 minutes, Mr Langdale said that Mr Coulson had himself been a victim of phone hacking during his time as editor of the News of the World. “The prosecution didn’t choose to tell you about that in opening the case to you, but it’s not easy to reconcile with their case,” he said. “Both conspirator and victim at the same time – it’s a fair question posed is it not? The two things don’t sit easily together do they?”

As Mr Langdale described Mr Coulson’s role on the tabloid, where “the flow of information was endless and continuous”, he challenged the prosecution’s claim that the editor was well aware what was going on inside the newspaper. During Mr Coulson’s editorship of 2003-07, the paper published “thousands and thousands” of stories and the editor received a “veritable blizzard of emails”, the barrister said.

He began his speech by telling the jury they were part of a remarkable trial. “This case – as you know – has an unusual history,” he said. “It’s now being heard in a court of law after years of coverage of one kind or another in national and international media. The trial itself will be unusually long.”

He went out of his way to criticise The Guardian’s coverage in July 2011 of the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone, in which the NOTW’s investigator Glenn Mulcaire was accused of deleting voicemails and giving false hope to the murdered schoolgirl’s family. “There’s no evidence to suggest that Mr Mulcaire or any other person acting for the News of the World deleted any message on Milly Dowler’s phone either deliberately or accidentally,” said Mr Langdale, who added that the accusation was “wholly unjustified” and had had “significant consequences”, contributing to the closure of the NOTW.

Mr Coulson denies conspiracy to unlawfully intercept communications. He also denies conspiring with the former NOTW royal editor Clive Goodman to corrupt public officials by paying police officers for royal telephone directories. Addressing a Goodman email on that subject, shown to the jury, Mr Langdale said that Mr Coulson “did not believe Mr Goodman had done or was doing any such thing”.

In the “competitive” world of the NOTW, reporters would “inflate the value of their own sources” and Mr Coulson learned to take their claims “with a hefty pinch of salt”, his barrister said.