Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson has told Britain’s phone-hacking trial he was only vaguely aware of the practice during his time at the Murdoch tabloid.
The defendant said he was never party to voicemail interception or in agreement with it.
Coulson also said that as deputy editor in 2002, he did not know the voicemail of missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler – later found murdered – had been accessed.
The revelation in July 2011 that the 13-year-old’s phone had been hacked sparked outrage and forced global media baron Rupert Murdoch to close the News of the World – Britain’s top-selling tabloid – within days.
Coulson told the London court that before the Dowler incident he was only vaguely aware of the practice of accessing voicemails.
“I think I was aware of it in very vague terms. I think it was in the ether. It was something that was gossiped about maybe,” he said.
Asked by his lawyer Timothy Langdale if he was ever party to or in agreement with phone hacking at the News of the World, Coulson replied: “No I was not.”
The 46-year-old, who went on to become Prime Minister David Cameron’s communications chief in government, said he had not known that accessing someone else’s voicemail messages was in fact against the law.
But he said: “I would have thought it was intrusive, I would have thought that it was a breach of privacy, and I also would have thought that it was lazy journalism.”
Coulson became the News of the World’s deputy editor in 2000, then editor in 2003 before resigning in 2007.
Coulson said he was a “risk averse” editor.
“I certainly had no interest in landing the paper in trouble because I would have been landing myself in trouble.”
Coulson denies one charge of conspiracy to hack phones and two of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office.