Coulson insists he was careless but not criminal as NoW editor

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Andy Coulson admitted in court he had been a “careless” editor but denied that meant he was involved in phone hacking.

The former News of the World editor was being questioned about what he knew of reporters’ criminal activities on his watch.

The Old Bailey heard that in 2004 chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck played him voicemails of then-Home Secretary David Blunkett declaring his love for then Spectator publisher Kimberly Fortier to justify doing a story.

Coulson went on to say he “rubber-stamped” two email requests by royal editor Clive Goodman to pay for stolen royal directories, not believing the money was really for a police officer.

And in 2005, Goodman emailed to tell him that health information on Prince Harry’s injury “comes from the doc himself scammed from Helen Asprey”, a member of the royal household, the court heard.

Coulson said he did not remember the email but would not have linked it to hacking.

Coulson told prosecutor Michael Edis QC said: “I clearly did not apply my mind to it but I did not think this was him indicating that Clive Goodman was hacking somebody’s phone.”

Mr Edis asked: “Were you a slapdash and careless editor?”

Coulson replied: “I don’t think I was slapdash but with the benefit of hindsight I displayed some carelessness. I would accept that.”

Coulson, 46, of Charing, Kent, denies conspiring to hack phones. He also denies two counts of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office

Earlier, the prosecutor dismissed Coulson’s public interest claims to justify exposing Mr Blunkett’s affair. Coulson said Blunkett had let slip to his married lover there had been a terror arrest, but the story contained no reference to it.

Mr Edis asked the witness: “If it’s something the public ought to know why didn’t you tell them?”

The court heard that around the time Coulson went to Sheffield to confront Mr Blunkett about the affair, he exchanged texts and phone calls with his on-off lover Rebekah Brooks.

The trial continues today.

Stephen Byrne.

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