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Andy Coulson released after arrest over phone hacking

Earlier today, David Cameron defended hiring former advisor Andy Coulson, saying he deserved a ‘second chance’.

Former NotW editor Andy Coulson was hired as David Cameron's media adviser shortly after being forced to resign from the paper.
Former NotW editor Andy Coulson was hired as David Cameron's media adviser shortly after being forced to resign from the paper.
Image: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire

Updated at 20:10

THE FORMER EDITOR of the News of the World, Andy Coulson, has been released by UK police after his arrest this morning in connection with police investigations into alleged corruption and phone-hacking at the newspaper.

In a statement this morning, the Metropolitan Police said they had arrested the 43-year-old “on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications [...] and on suspicion of corruption allegations”.

He was released on police bail this evening but is due to return on some date in October, the Guardian reports. Leaving Lewisham police station, Coulson said to the waiting press: “I am afraid I can’t say any more at this stage. There is a lot I would like to say.”

This lunchtime the News of the World’s former Royal Editor, Clive Goodman – who was jailed in 2007 for his role in phone-hacking – was also rearrested as part of the latest investigations.

Cameron: Coulson deserved ‘second chance’

Coulson’s arrest came just as the prime minister, David Cameron, held a press conference where he defended hiring Coulson as his press advisor – arguing that it was only fair he be given a “second chance”.

Cameron said he only hired Coulson after being given “every assurance” that Coulson was not aware of the scale of the phone-hacking being carried out under his watch.

I asked for assurances, he gave me assurances… Frankly, as we stand today, we don’t all know who at News International knew what about what.

Cameron also said he could not recall being given any information, either by his staff or by newspaper editors, about the apparent extent of Coulson’s involvement in the phone-hacking affair – which was this week shown to include crime victims and families of dead soldiers as well as celebrities and public figures.

He was responding to claims by Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, made on last night’s BBC Newsnight programme, who said he had told Cameron and his aides to be suspicious of how Coulson claimed not to realise how endemic the practice was within his paper.

Asked whether he regretted being so close to the paper’s proprietor Rupert Murdoch before last year’s general election – a liaison which ultimately led The Sun to advocate voting for Cameron’s Conservatives – the PM blamed the modern political culture for making politicians too reliant on the media.

“The truth is we’ve all been in this together – the press, the leaders of all political parties. Yes, including me,” he said, later adding:

You are bound to, as a party leader, want to have a relationship with journalists, editors, broadcasters and proprietors… you have a mission to explain how you want to change and improve our country.

Politicians had been too intent on trying to court the support of newspapers instead of confronting the problems associated with such a close relationship.

“It’s on my watch that the music has got to stop,” Cameron said.

Asked by reporters on whether the News of the World was right to close, Cameron said that while it was not up to him to decide which papers remained operational and which didn’t, he would have accepted the resignation of News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks.

Brooks is reported to have offered her resignation to parent company News Corporation on Wednesday evening, but it was declined by News Corp’s chief executive James Murdoch.

The Guardian quoted Labour leader Ed Miliband, who called on Cameron to be “honest about his mistakes” and apologise for hiring Coulson – who became a public servant when Cameron became Prime Minister last May.

Additional reporting by Susan Ryan

Listen to leaked audio: Staff accuse Rebekah Brooks of arrogance during NOTW closure meeting

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Gavan Reilly

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