Andy Coulson, British Prime Minister David Cameron's former media chief and ex-editor of Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid, pleaded not guilty to charges related to phone hacking on Thursday.
The 45-year-old Coulson resigned from his job as director of communications in Downing Street in January 2011 and was arrested in July that year over allegations of criminal behaviour at the tabloid he edited from 2003 to 2007.
Coulson, looking relaxed in a dark suit, stood for less than five minutes in the dock at London’s Southwark Crown Court to deny charges of unlawful interception of voicemail messages and illegal payments to public officials.
He was bailed to return to court at a later date. The trial is expected to begin in September.
The hacking scandal forced the closure of the mass-selling Sunday tabloid and prompted a huge police inquiry. Officers arrested a 39-year-old former prison officer on Thursday morning, the 66th person to be arrested under the investigation into inappropriate payments to police and public officials in return for information.
The scandal also led to a year-long public inquiry into journalistic practices which sent shockwaves through the British establishment as it laid bare the close links between media, police and politicians.
In Coulson’s case, prosecutors allege the conspiracy to hack phones took place between October 2000 and August 2006, while two charges of a conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office through the making of illegal payments is alleged to have taken place between 2002 and 2003, and again in 2005.
The paper’s former news editor Ian Edmondson also appeared in court on Thursday to plead not guilty to charges related to phone hacking.
Rebekah Brooks, a former senior executive in Murdoch’s media empire and Coulson’s predecessor at the News of the World, has also denied charges related to phone hacking.
Brooks, who also edited the daily Sun tabloid and ran Murdoch’s British newspaper arm before being arrested in July 2011, stood in the dock alongside her husband and other senior staff from the paper to deny the charges at a hearing on Wednesday. DM
Photo: Andy Coulson, former News of the World newspaper editor and Prime Minister David Cameron’s director of communications, leaves the High Court in Glasgow, Scotland December 9, 2010. Coulson gave evidence in the trial involving former Scottish politician Tommy Sheridan and his wife Gail, both of whom deny committing perjury during a successful defamation action against the News of the World in 2006, local media reported. REUTERS/David Moir
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