Coulson Says He Spoke to Murdoch After First Hacking Arrest

April 23 (Bloomberg) -- Andy Coulson, the former editor of News Corp.’s News of the World, said he spoke to company Chairman Rupert Murdoch in 2006 shortly after a journalist was arrested for phone hacking.

Coulson said he called Murdoch to tell him that Clive Goodman, then a News of the World reporter, had been detained by police for intercepting voice-mail messages of employees of the royal family. Coulson left the tabloid months later when Goodman was sentenced to prison for phone hacking.

“Rupert Murdoch said something in that conversation that I kept in mind until my resignation,” the 46-year-old Coulson said during his fifth day of testimony at a criminal trial in London. “He said that the most valuable thing that a newspaper had is the trust of its readers and that is something that stuck in my mind.”

Goodman and Coulson are among seven people on trial for a variety of wrongdoing at News Corp.’s U.K. newspapers, including voice-mail interception and bribing public officials. The phone-hacking scandal lingered over the company for five years before Murdoch closed the News of the World in 2011 in response to public outrage over the discovery that journalists had listened to messages on the phone of a murdered schoolgirl.

Coulson today responded to Goodman’s testimony earlier in the trial, where the reporter said that Coulson had offered him a job after he was released from prison to keep quiet about the scale of phone hacking at the company.

Lone Wolf

While Coulson admitted that he met with Goodman after the arrest, he denied that he had asked him to say he was a “lone wolf.”

“I was concerned for the paper and the company that I had worked for many, many years,” Coulson said. “I was concerned about the impact for me as the editor, but I also concerned for Clive and this meeting was about that.”

After his resignation from the News of the World, Coulson served as a media adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron until the phone-hacking scandal resurfaced in 2011.

Murdoch called Coulson the day he resigned from the News of the World in January 2007, to “wish him well,” Coulson said.

“I reminded him of what he had said about Clive Goodman -- that the trust between a newspaper and its readers is the most valuable thing that it had,” Coulson told the court.

The conversation with Murdoch was one of several incidents Coulson recalled about the day.

Going Well

An e-mail he sent to Rebekah Brooks, another defendant in the case who was then head of News Corp.’s daily Sun tabloid, that said “it’s going so well today,” referred to media coverage, and not the outcome of Goodman’s case, Coulson said.

“It was a disastrous day for the News of the World and Clive Goodman -- and as it turned out for me,” he said.

Coulson also told jurors that the tabloid was taken by surprise by the arrest of Goodman in 2006, with a company lawyer expressing “shock” at the use of a law designed to halt terrorism in the original phone-hacking case.

“I didn’t put up any barriers, but I cannot say that I put up information because I didn’t,” Coulson said of the day in 2006 when the police raided the News of the World offices in London. “I didn’t want to make the situation worse.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Richard Alleyne in London at ralleyne2@bloomberg.net; Jeremy Hodges in London at jhodges17@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net Peter Chapman