By Ewan Palmer
David Cameron has apologised for making the “wrong decision” in hiring Andy Coulson following his conviction for phone hacking.
Coulson, who was hired as director of communications by the Conservative party in May 2007 after he resigned from the News of the World, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to hack phones at the Old Bailey.
Coulson quit the NotW following the conviction of its royal editor, Clive Goodman, of phone hacking offences. At the time he said that, as editor of the newspaper, he took “full responsibility” for any wrongdoing by reporters, yet didn’t personally have any knowledge of phone hacking.
Cameron has now said he is “extremely sorry” about the “bad decision” to hire Coulson, adding that he hired the veteran tabloid reporter “on the basis of undertakings I was given by him about phone hacking and those turned out not to be the case.
“I always said that if they turned out to be wrong that I would make a full and frank apology and I do that today. I am extremely sorry that I employed him. It was the wrong decision and I’m very clear about that.
“I would say that no one has made any complaints about the work that he did for me either as Leader of the Opposition or indeed here in Number 10 Downing Street, but knowing what I now know and knowing that those assurances weren’t right it was obviously wrong to employ him.
“I gave someone a second chance and it turned out to be a bad decision.”
Chancellor George Osborne, who advised Cameron to hire Coulson, has also apologised, saying: “I too am very sorry for the decision we made to employ Andy Coulson. He gave us assurances that turned out not to be the case. We gave him a second chance but, knowing what we now know, it’s clear that we made the wrong decision.
“It’s important for the victims of phone hacking that this has now been properly dealt with by the courts; and it matters for us all that we have a free and vibrant press which operates within the law.”
‘Endemic’ phone hacking culture
Coulson’s initial claim that he was not involved in phone hacking was backed by a Press Complaints Commission (PCC) report, which ruled that neither he nor anyone else at the newspaper was aware of the illegal activity of Goodman.
However he resigned as Cameron’s spin doctor in January 2011 as more allegations of an “endemic” phone hacking culture at the NotW emerged. He said the attention surrounding the claims made it difficult to concentrate on his role.
Coulson was eventually arrested on suspicion of phone hacking and making illegal payments to police in July 2011, one day after the NotW closed following reports murdered schoolgirl Mily Dowler’s phone was hacked by the paper while police were still looking for her.
Coulson and Goodman still await a verdict on two charges of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office by sanctioning payments to public officials for confidential royal phone directories.
The rest of the defendants at the phone hacking trial, including former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, were cleared of all charges.