By Martin Hickman
Andy Coulson did not knowingly recruit a skilled phone-hacker to the News of the World, he told the Old Bailey today.
Mr Coulson also denied Dan Evans played him a voicemail recording of a message he had intercepted from the phone of the actress Sienna Miller.
Mr Coulson also said he did not know, or suspect, that the paper’s royal editor, Clive Goodman, was contracting a private detective, Glenn Mulcaire, to hack messages, or that Goodman himself was hacking.
In the witness box for the fourth day, Mr Coulson was asked about the testimony of Evans, who told the trial it was obvious that his specialist skill was hacking when he was recruited by the NoW’s then editor and another senior journalist.
Referring to the meeting at One Aldwtch Hotel on 21 October 2004, Mr Coulson’s counsel Timothy Langdale QC asked whether “anything [was] said by Dan Evans about or concerning phone hacking?”
Mr Coulson told the court: “Not that I remember, no.”
Asked whether he or the other senior journalists present had said anything about hacking, Mr Coulson replied: “Again, not that I can remember.”
Mr Langdale asked: “Did the subject come up at all at the meeting?”
Mr Coulson, who went on to become Downing Street’s director of communications, said: “Not that I can remember.”
He also disputed Evans’ claim that he played a message left by the actor Daniel Craig on Ms Miller’s phone, prior to the News of the World publishing a story about their fling in 2005.
Challenged by his counsel whether the incident had taken place, Mr Coulson said: “No, it did not.”
Speaking about Evans’ employment on the features desk, he said that he must have said “hello” to the reporter after he started work, adding that that was customary with new members of staff.
He went on: “There must have been some exchanges between us, but none stick in my mind.”
Referring to an internal email in which an executive had referred to Evans making “special checks” about Ms Miller, Mr Coulson said: “I don’t think it meant anything to me at all. I think all reporters think their checks are special.”
He suggested that he would have been at the Labour Party conference in Brighton on the day or days when Evans claimed he played the tape to him at the News of the World’s offices at Wapping, London.
He also said that the paper had three separate sources of information about Ms Miller and her then boyfriend Jude Law – Mr Law’s publicist, one of his relatives, and a driver.
Turning to Mr Goodman, jailed in 2007 for hacking, Mr Langdale asked whether Mr Coulson had demoted or demeaned him while editing the News of the World.
“I don’t think I ever demoted Clive Goodman; I think I went out of my way to help Clive Goodman,” Mr Coulson said. He told the jury: “I am not a bully.”
Mr Langdale asked: “Did you ever know or suspect that Clive Goodman was using the services of Glenn Mulcaire to intercept voicemail messages?”
“Absolutely not,” Mr Coulson replied.
He also said that he had not known that Mr Goodman had been hacking himself.
Mr Coulson, who resigned as the Prime Minister’s communications chief in 2011, denies conspiring to hack phones and conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office.
Mr Goodman, who is not attending court due to illness, denies conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office.
The case is expected to hear more about the working relationship between the pair this afternoon.