14 Apr 2014

Andy Coulson: ‘My affair with Rebekah Brooks was wrong’

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson tells a court that his affair with his former colleague Rebekah Brooks was “wrong” and “shouldn’t have happened”.

Giving evidence at the phone-hacking trial, the 46-year-old said the couple had an affair that started in 1998, but was not “continual” and there were long periods where they were just close friends.

The Old Bailey has previously heard that Ms Brooks and Mr Coulson had several “periods of intimacy” during their time working together.

Mr Coulson followed Ms Brooks as editor of the now-defunct Sunday tabloid between 2003 and 2007, and before that was appointed in 2000 as her deputy.

He told the court that the pair first got to know each other in 1996 when a friend of his had died, and then became professional colleagues in 1998 when Ms Brooks was made deputy editor of the Sun.

Asked about their personal relationship, the former Downing Street spin doctor said: “There was an affair that started in 1998. It ended quite soon after but it did re-start, as the court has heard.

“What I want to say is that it was not by any means continual. There were very long periods – very long periods – where the relationship was what it should have been,” saying they were just close friends and colleagues.

“But I don’t want to minimise it or excuse it. It was wrong and it shouldn’t have happened and I take my full share of responsibility for the pain it has caused other people, not least my wife.”

Holiday with PM

Both Ms Brooks and Mr Coulson are accused of conspiring to hack phones and separate charges of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office. They deny the charges.

Earlier, Mr Coulson told how he spent a weekend with David Cameron after he resigned as his media adviser amid controversy over what he knew about phone hacking while he was NoW editor.

But the 46-year-old said he had not spoken to the prime minister since that pre-arranged social occasion in spring 2011.

Mr Coulson resigned as NoW editor in 2007, after the conviction of former royal editor Clive Goodman for hacking, and joined Mr Cameron’s team, first in opposition and then in Downing Street after the 2010 general election.

It was wrong and it shouldn’t have happened and I take my full share of responsibility for the pain it has caused. Andy Coulson

He resigned his post as Mr Cameron’s media adviser in January 2011 amid the controversy over phone hacking, and was arrested last that year, then charged in 2012.

Mr Coulson today said he had had “sparing” contact with former boss Rupert Murdoch since his resignation.

And of his contact with Mr Cameron, he said: “My family and I spent a weekend with him in the spring after I left. I have not spoken to him since.”

He added that the invitation came before he left his Downing Street job.

Mr Coulson described an atmosphere of intrigue and secrecy at the NotW when he joined the paper from the Sun as deputy editor under Brooks in 2000, saying it had become “destructive”.

The trial continues.