Phone Hacking Scandal: Andy Coulson Attempts to Dodge Parliament Questioning

6:31 AM PST 09/08/2011 by Mimi Turner
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Lawyers for the former News of the World editor imply he could incriminate himself by contradicting his 2009 testimony on the subject.

LONDON - He is without a doubt a key witness in the phone-hacking scandal: as the former editor of The News of The World, Andy Coulson has many of the answers about phone-hacking at his former newspaper, including which senior bosses approved it and whether they sanctioned the criminal acts of phone message hacking and paying police officers for evidence.

But the former editor seems to be looking for a loophole to prevent him from having to account for his actions to Parliament, citing the "concerns" a the number of separate investigations into phone-hacking at which he is likely to have to testify, according to The Guardian .

Coulson's lawyers, DL Piper, have told the Culture Select Committee that recently earlier this summer forced Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch to give evidence, that their client does not want to appear before them.

"We have expressed our concerns to you previously about the effects of the parallel inquiries and investigations and the publicity generated by them. Given those concerns … our client does not wish to make any additional comments on the evidence he gave to the committee," the lawyers said, according to a letter published in The Guardian.

Coulson, who was arrested last month and remains on police bail, is likely keen not to incriminate himself in an arena where he would not ordinarily have a legal team present. He is expected to face questions on his previous testimony in 2009, much of which now looks doubtful in the wake of wave after wave of revelations about thousands of phone-hacking victims.

However, as a British citizen he may have no option but to appear before the Parliamentary committee, which issued official summons to James and Rupert Murdoch, compelling them to appear even through neither are British citizens.

Coulson resigned from the paper in 2007 when former Royal reporter Clive Goodman and investigator Glenn Mulcaire were jailed for phone-hacking. At the time Coulson and News International claimed that the practice had been restricted to "one rogue reporter" but subsequent evidence suggests that there were thousands of victims and that the practise was widely used.

His testimony could likely also prove embarrassing for Prime Minister David Cameron, who hired Coulson as his personal spokesman despite the evidence of criminal activity at The News of The World.

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