Press standards, privacy and libel - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 1700-1719)


21 JULY 2009

  Q1700  Adam Price: Finally, Mr Coulson, I think you were quoted in the Press Gazette, that august publication, as saying that if a journalist comes to you with a great story, one of the first questions you ask is, "How did you get it?" Did you ever ask that question of Clive Goodman?

  Mr Coulson: I do not recall specific circumstances where I did. I think in that interview I was laying out a broad idea of how things worked on the News of the World. Certainly from time to time I would ask how stories came about. I was generally though more concerned about how a story could be stood up and how a story could be in a fit state to be published.

  Q1701  Adam Price: Everyone who knows you says that you were a hands-on editor, that you would probe stories relentlessly at editorial conversation, you would roam the news floor, you were a constant presence. If your Royal reporter or chief reporter was presenting a story would you not always ask about the provenance of these stories?

  Mr Coulson: Not always, no, and, as I said in my opening statement, I did not micromanage every story, nor did I micromanage every reporter. It is possible in all walks of life—and perhaps Mr Watson will back me up on this—to work very close to someone who is doing something that they should not be doing, perhaps sending emails or whatnot, and not have full knowledge of what it is they are up to and being completely oblivious to what it is they are up to.

  Q1702  Adam Price: I think Mr Watson will probably want to come in. I referred to a particular story in the earlier session involving the two Princes and I was surprised that Mr Crone feigned ignorance of this particular story because Neville Thurlbeck was actually cross-examined in relation to this exact story by counsel for Max Mosley at the Mosley case?

  Mr Coulson: You will have to forgive me, which story are you referring to?

  Q1703  Adam Price: We have a copy of the News of the World somewhere: "Chelsy tears a strip off Harry". It is a story which is essentially based around a phone message left by Prince William imitating Chelsy, Prince Harry's girlfriend, on Prince Harry's phone. Either the story was untrue or it was based on the phone hacking of the Prince's phone. It also appeared on the front in an inset. Are you saying that as an editor, a page 7 story about the Princes, about a message left on their phone, and you as an editor of a national newspaper, with an inset on the front, would not have checked the provenance of that story?

  Mr Coulson: Not necessarily, no, and I do not remember the story. I will have a look at it now.

  Q1704  Adam Price: Are you aware now whether the Prince's phone was hacked?

  Mr Coulson: No, I am not aware either way.

  Q1705  Adam Price: Should you not find out?

  Mr Coulson: Well I suggest—I do not remember the story, I am sorry.

  Q1706  Adam Price: Is that not astonishing? You are an Editor of a national newspaper and here is a story which is based around a verbatim account of a phone message left by one Prince on the other Prince's phone. You put an inset on the front, you brand it as exclusive, it is high up the paper and you are telling me that as Editor you do not even remember the story and you did not ask Clive Goodman or Neville Thurlbeck, who we now know of course it would appear received a transcript in relation to other phone hacking, that you did not know and you did not ask at the time?

  Mr Coulson: Mr Price, I am sorry, but I can only tell you what I remember and I do not remember this story at all. I am trying to remind myself of what the week may have been like by looking at the rest of the paper. It seems that we had a buy-up with an Eastenders star, we were in the middle of a DVD promotion, there is a very good story about David Cameron on page 2. I am afraid I simply do not remember this story so I can only therefore conclude that I played no part in it. I can only tell you what I know. I do not know what edition it is and I would like to know what edition this is. I am sorry, I can only tell you what I remember and I do not remember the story at all.

  Q1707  Tom Watson: I think last time we met I was your guest at the News International reception at the Labour Party Conference. It is good to see you again.

  Mr Coulson: Very good, nice to see you.

  Q1708  Tom Watson: Do you think Clive Goodman deserved a jail sentence?

  Mr Coulson: I think Clive paid a price for his crimes.

  Q1709  Tom Watson: So you think he deserved it?

  Mr Coulson: I think that Clive paid a price for his crimes and I would not argue with what happened in any way, shape or form.

  Q1710  Tom Watson: But that price of four months in jail was deserved?

  Mr Coulson: That was a judgment for the judge, was it not?

  Q1711  Tom Watson: What is your judgment?

  Mr Coulson: I am not arguing with the judgment at all.

  Q1712  Tom Watson: What is your judgment?

  Mr Coulson: On what?

  Q1713  Tom Watson: On the four-month sentence?

  Mr Coulson: Not in any way since Clive's conviction have I disputed the judgment and I do not think I would now.

  Q1714  Tom Watson: Have you seen him since he went to jail?

  Mr Coulson: No.

  Q1715  Tom Watson: Or talked to him?

  Mr Coulson: No.

  Q1716  Tom Watson: Would you have considered him a friend before he was arrested for what he did?

  Mr Coulson: I knew Clive a bit. We had a mutual friend many years ago but, no, Clive and I were not especially close.

  Q1717  Tom Watson: Do you think Mulcaire deserved his prison sentence?

  Mr Coulson: I feel the same way as I did about Clive's sentence.

  Q1718  Tom Watson: It must have been a terrible day when they were arrested. When you conducted your inquiry did you ask detailed questions about what Mulcaire did and did not do for the company?

  Mr Coulson: At what stage, sorry?

  Q1719  Tom Watson: When you found out about the arrests. Presumably you commissioned an inquiry?

  Mr Coulson: Yes. Obviously we wanted to know internally very quickly what the hell had gone on. Then I brought in Burton Copeland, an independent firm of solicitors to carry out an investigation. We opened up the files as much as we could. There was nothing that they asked for that they were not given.

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