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Ex-NotW editor Andy Coulson 'was a phone hacking victim'

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson has denied the charges against him Photo: Press Association

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson's defence barrister has said he was never ever "party to any agreement" to hack phones.

Timothy Langdale QC told the Old Bailey that it is "relatively unusual" for the defence to make an opening statement to the court, but that there were good reasons for doing so.

He said: "This case has as you know an unusual history. It's now being heard in a court of law after years of coverage of one kind or another in both the international and national media.

"We invite you to keep an open mind in all these matters", he added.

Coulson, 45, denies conspiring with others to hack phones and to commit misconduct in public office.

Andy Coulson's barrister urged jurors to keep an open mind. Credit: ITV News

"He wishes he had made some different decisions. We shall be saying to you that although he might wish he made some different decisions he did not commit these offences", Mr Langdale said.

The barrister also told the jury that Mr Coulson will go into the witness box and give evidence in the future.

ITV News Correspondent Paul Davies reports:

The court also heard the Government's former communications chief's own mobile phone was also hacked by former News of the World's private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

Mr Langdale said: "When it is alleged that Mr Coulson must have known (about phone hacking), if only on the basis that each of the news editors was party to hacking, you may like to bear in mind that Mr Coulson himself was hacked."

Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire allegedly hacked Mr Coulson's mobile phone. Credit: Press Association

"The CPS did not choose to tell you about that. It is not easy to reconcile with their case, is it?"

"Both conspirator and victim? It is fair to say, is it not, that the two things do not sit easily together?", the barrister added.

Earlier, the prosecution finished its opening statement in the trial against eight defendants - including former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks who face a range of charges.

Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC told the court that Brooks, 45, conspired with her husband and security staff to hide material from police investigating phone hacking.

Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks with her husband Charlie Credit: Press Association

Mr Edis said while former News of the World and Sun editor Brooks was being questioned by police over the voicemail allegations, her husband Charlie and former NI head of security Mark Hanna tried to hide evidence.

Jurors were told that a security guard was tasked with taking a bin bag to Chelsea Harbour, under the pretext of delivering pizza.

After he had dropped off the package, he sent a text message to a colleague, referencing the 1968 film Where Eagles Dare starring Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton, which said:

"Broadsword calling Danny Boy. Pizza delivered and the chicken's in the pot." To which the colleague replied: "Ha, f****** amateurs. We should have done a DLB (dead letter box) or brush contact on the riverside."

Neither of the men can be named for legal reasons.

Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC Credit: ITV News/Priscilla Coleman

The jury also heard Brooks instructed her personal assistant to remove seven boxes of notebooks from the company's archive that have "never been seen again".

Brooks is accused of conspiring with Cheryl Carter to pervert the course of justice by taking the documents while the police were investigating allegations of phone hacking and payments to public officials.

Mr Edis told jurors the material, said to be Brooks' notebooks from 1995 to 2007, has never been found.

"Nothing like that has ever been recovered in the course of this inquiry", he said.

Closing the opening, Mr Edis said it was "inconceivable" that Mrs Brooks had no knowledge of the alleged conspiracy to hide material from police.

It is obvious that the purpose of all this activity can only have been to hide something significant. What on earth were they doing?

We say it is inconceivable that anyone would have been doing anything to hide any of her property or to interfere with the police investigation without her knowledge, agreement or consent.

– Andrew Edis QC

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