Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson denies hacking conspiracy

Mr Coulson, 45, from south east London, appeared at Southwark Crown Court to face three charges.

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The Independent Online

David Cameron’s former communications chief in Downing Street,  Andy Coulson, has pleaded not guilty to three charges linked to phone hacking and bribing public officials. The offences are alleged to have occurred during the time he worked as a senior news executive for Rupert Murdoch’s UK print business.

Mr Coulson, 45, a former editor of the News of the World, denied a charge of conspiracy to illegally intercept communications and  also pleaded not guilty to two counts of misconduct in public office relating to alleged payments for information from public officials.

The former editor and Number 10 spin chief stood alone in the dock of court 4  at Southwark Crown Court. He spoke only  to answer the charges against him

Mr Coulson, from south London, began his journalism career as a pop writer and columnist before being promoted deputy editor of the now-defunct News of the World  in 2000. His boss at the Sunday tabloid was Rebekah Brooks.

When Mrs Brooks left to edit the Sun, Mr Coulson was promoted  and was editor from 2003 to 2007.

He became the Conservative Party's director of communications when David Cameron was leader of the Opposition, and moved to Number 10 when Mr Cameron became Prime Minister after the Tories' victory at the 2010 election.

He resigned in January 2011.

Prosecutors claim the  phone-hacking offences took place between October 2000 and August 2006 with Mr Coulson alleged to have conspired with other journalists at the NOTW -  including former editor, Rebekah Brooks, the former news editor, Ian Edmondson, Stuart Kuttner, the paper's former managing editor, and senior reporter James Weatherup -  to illegally access mobile phone messages, 

Mr Edmondson, 44, from south London, also pleaded not guilty to the charge against him.

Bail for both men, in force since their arrest, was continued.

Today Mrs Brooks, Mr Kuttner and Mr Weatherup also pleaded not guilty to the hacking charge.

On the first count of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office, the charge against Mr Coulson relates to the period from August 2002 to January 2003. He is jointly charged with NOTW's former royal correspondent, Clive Goodman. Both deny the charge.

The second count against Mr Coulson relates to an offence alleged to have  taken place between January and June 2005. Again he is jointly charged with Mr Goodman. Both pleaded not guilty to the offence

The charges were brought as part of Scotland Yard's three specialist investigations into phone hacking and the subsequent fall-out from the activity.

The former chief executive of News International, Rebekah Brooks, also pleaded not guilty to a series of other charges against her linked to her time as editor of two NI titles and a subsequent period as chief executive of the Murdoch-owned company.

In addition to pleading not guilty to the phone hacking charge, she denied committing an offence of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice where, along with her former personal assistance, Cheryl Carter, she is alleged to have committed a series of acts involving permanently removing seven boxes of archived material from News International's archive.

Mrs Carter also denies the charge against her.

Mrs Brooks, along with her husband Charles Brooks, a race horse trainer and close friend of the Prime Minister, both deny a further charge of  intending to pervert the course of justice by concealing documents, computers and other electronic equipment from officers of the Metropolitan Police who were investigating allegations of phone hacking and corruption of public officials in relation to the News of the World and Sun.

Others charged with Mr and Mrs Brooks also pleaded not guilty to the conspiracy offence.

All those involved will face a full trial later this year, expected to be September.