Profile: Andy Coulson

Andy Coulson Andy Coulson has always denied any knowledge of phone hacking at the NoW

No 10's former spokesman is back at the heart of the phone-hacking scandal after e-mails emerged allegedly showing he had authorised payments to police when editing the News of the World. He is being questioned by police in south London.

When Andy Coulson stepped down as Prime Minister David Cameron's communications director in January, he blamed the continuing row over phone hacking, saying it was difficult to give the "110%" he needed in the role.

Almost six months later, that ever expanding row has returned to present the 43-year-old with further distractions.

The alleged payment of tens of thousands of pounds by the News of the World (NoW) to officers was first made public when News International, the paper's publisher, sent documents to police as part of its internal investigation.

The documents, seen by the BBC, appear to date from Mr Coulson's editorship of the Sunday tabloid paper from 2003-7.

They have now been formally referred by the Metropolitan Police to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which will oversee the investigation into police payments.

Mr Coulson has always denied any knowledge of phone hacking at the NoW and was interviewed by police as a witness in November 2010.

He has not commented on the latest allegations about police payments.

TIMELINE

  • 1986 - Andy Coulson starts work at Basildon Evening Echo
  • 1988 - He joins The Sun
  • 1994 - He has a brief stint at the Daily Mail before returning to News International
  • 2003 - He becomes editor of the NoW
  • Jan 2007 - He resigns on same day as Clive Goodman is convicted
  • Jul 2007 - He becomes the Conservative Party's director of communications
  • May 2010 - following the general election he takes up a similar job in Downing Street
  • Jan 2011 - he resigns
  • July 2011 - E-mails emerge allegedly showing he authorised payments to police when NoW editor

The former journalist climbed to dizzy heights since starting out as a reporter on a regional newspaper.

He was born and brought up in Wickford, Essex, and educated at the local state school, Beauchamps Comprehensive.

The devoted Tottenham Hotspur fan began his career at the Basildon Evening Echo, before joining the Sun and rising rapidly through the ranks of News International.

His progress led him to being briefly poached to work at the Daily Mail, before he was tempted back to the Sun, where he edited the newspaper's Bizarre pop gossip column.

He went on to become the NoW's deputy editor in 2000, and in 2003 he succeeded Rebekah Wade as editor.

His reign saw a string of old-fashioned tabloid exclusives, lifting the lid on the private lives of David Beckham, David Blunkett and Sven-Goran Eriksson.

The paper won the Press Gazette Newspaper of the Year award in 2005.

'On my watch'

When he won the reward Mr Coulson was quoted as saying: "The NoW doesn't pretend to do anything other than reveal big stories and titillate and entertain the public, while exposing crime and hypocrisy."

He quit as editor in January 2007 on the day Clive Goodman, the paper's former royal editor, was jailed for four months for illegal phone hacking.

Mr Coulson said he took "ultimate responsibility" for the scandal, even though he maintained he was unaware of any phone hacking by his journalists.

His resignation statement said Goodman's actions were "entirely wrong and I deeply regret that they happened on my watch".

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A Press Complaints Commission investigation in May 2007 found no evidence that he or anyone else at the paper had been aware of Goodman's activities.

That month Mr Coulson, a close friend of former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, became the Conservative Party's director of communications.

Reports suggested he had been hired at a salary of about £475,000.

At the time of the appointment, a Tory spokesman said the party was satisfied Mr Coulson had not been to blame for the phone-hacking scandal.

Mr Coulson then played an important role in building support in Fleet Street for Tory leader David Cameron. In particular, he is credited with helping get the pre-election endorsement of the Sun.

Tim Montgomerie, editor of the ConservativeHome blog, said Mr Coulson's tabloid touch and right-wing instincts brought much-needed balance to the Cameron team.

However, last year he was accused by one former senior Tory press officer of being a divisive figure. The New Statesman alleged he was "micro-managing" his staff, and had insisted that he sanction every announcement and policy decision personally.

When the Conservatives entered government in a coalition deal with the Lib Dems in May 2010, Mr Coulson followed Mr Cameron into Downing Street on an annual salary of £140,000.

Although working in the background, Mr Coulson was a key figure in the new administration, and drew comparisons with Tony Blair's former director of communications, Alastair Campbell.

But as revelations about the NoW's activities grew, pressure mounted on him to resign his politically sensitive post.

Denied 'dark arts'

In November last year he was interviewed as a witness by police.

The following month Mr Coulson, giving evidence at the perjury trial of Scottish politician Tommy Sheridan, denied presiding over "dark arts".

He denied knowing of Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator at the heart of the phone-hacking inquiry, until the Goodman court case.

He told the court: "I don't accept there was a culture of phone hacking at the News of the World."

Mr Coulson also denied he been given a pay-off to keep quiet by the NoW.

"There is nothing I am not prepared to discuss in relation to my time at the News of the World," he said during heated exchanges with Sheridan, who was later convicted.

That same month the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, said no new charges would be brought in the case, owing to a lack of admissible evidence.

But in January, the Crown Prosecution Service said it would review all the material held by police about phone hacking at the NoW.

A fresh investigation into phone hacking followed after Scotland Yard received "significant new information".

Police say they are now contacting almost 4,000 people whose names appear in documents seized in 2005.

News International has announced the NoW is to close.

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