'Coulson brought hacking wholesale to NoW'

Former News of the World features editor Paul McMullan alleged today that Andy Coulson got promoted from the Sun’s Bizarre editor to deputy of the News of the World on the back of his proficiency at hacking phone messages.

Coulson became deputy editor of the News of the World in 2000 (at the time when McMullan was deputy features editor of the paper). Coulson became editor in 2003.

McMullan told the Leveson Inquiry today: ‘You only had to read Andy Coulson’s column on Bizarre. He would be commenting on how celebrity A left messages on celebrity B’s phone – it was that bllatant and obvious. I don’t think anyone realised that anyone was committing a crime.

“The assumption is that Andy Coulson brought that practice with him wholesale when he become deputy editor.”

Interception of voicemail message became illegal under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act in 2000.

McMullan said that Coulson, and former News International chief executive Rebekah Wade, are ‘the scum of journalism for trying to drop me and all my colleagues in it”. For for trying to get away “scot free”.

Defending the practice of phone-hacking, McMullan insisted that it would have been justifiable to hack the phone-messages of former deputy prime minister John Prescott – who is believed to have been one of the News of the World’s phone-hacking targets.

He spoke about how he covered the Iraq war and remembered some of the RAF servicemen he met coming back in bodybags over a conflict which had been justified by the search for weapons of mass destruction.

He said that using phone-hacking to find out whether John Prescott had broken his wedding vows – as he did when he had an affair with his secretary – was legitimate because he was part of a government which took Britain into the Iraq war.

He said: ‘Do we really want to live in a world where the only people who can do the hacking are MI5 and MI6? For 20 years we had lived in a free society where we can hack back.”

Insisting that phone-hacking was widespread on Fleet Street, McMullan said: ‘The News of the World was one of the least bad offenders – the others were much worse.”

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