Hacking trial: Andy Coulson 'knew David Blunkett affair story came from hacked voicemails'


James Cusick
Monday 28 April 2014 18:11

Andy Coulson knew he was lying to the then home secretary, David Blunkett, when he failed to tell him during an interview in 2004 that details of his secret affair with a publisher had been obtained from hacked voicemails.

The jury in the phone hacking trial at the Old Bailey heard the former News of the World editor also admit that he had lied to Mr Blunkett by claiming the Murdoch-owned tabloid had “sources” which confirmed the affair as “true”.

In the witness box for the second day of the prosecution’s cross-examination of his evidence, Mr Coulson initially refused to use the word “lying” during questioning by lead counsel, Andrew Edis QC.

He told the jury he had been “disingenuous” with Mr Blunkett during the interview that had taken place in his Sheffield constituency home. But repeatedly asked “So you lied to him?”, Mr Coulson stuck to his initial response.

However the judge, Mr Justice Saunders, intervened and interrupting Mr Edis asked “Were you telling a deliberate untruth? Yes or no?”

After a brief hesitation, Mr Coulson said “Yes”.

The jury has already heard Mr Coulson describe being told by the former chief reporter of the NOTW, Neville Thurlbeck, that details of Mr Blunkett’s affair with the publisher of the right-leaning Spectator magazine, Kimberley Quinn, had been obtained from illegally intercepted voicemails.

Mr Coulson repeated to the court that he did not know, at that time, that hacking was a criminal offence, but believed his newspaper risked an injunction or civil action related to breach of privacy.

The prosecution accused Mr Coulson of “inventing” a public interest justification for publishing details of the affair. Thurlbeck, Mr Coulson claimed, had told him the affair was a political “distraction” and details of a terrorist arrest had been shared.

Mr Edis said the public interest “stuff” had been invented. No details of the terrorist concern appeared in the NOTW story, the jury was told.

Mr Coulson said many of his decisions taken at that time had been “a mistake" but denied trying to suppress what he had done ever since.

Thurlbeck has pleaded guilty to hacking-related charges earlier in the trial’s proceedings.

Mr Coulson along with six others deny all the charges against them.

The trial continues.

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