Coulson loses case against News Corp; Mulcaire wins

LONDON Wed Dec 21, 2011 10:08pm GMT

Andy Coulson, the former spokesman for Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, leaves a police station after being bailed in South London July 8, 2011. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

Andy Coulson, the former spokesman for Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, leaves a police station after being bailed in South London July 8, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Olivia Harris

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LONDON (Reuters) - Andy Coulson, former editor of Rupert Murdoch's News of the World and once the British prime minister's spokesman, lost a case on Wednesday to force the tabloid's publisher to pay his legal fees relating to phone-hacking charges.

Coulson was arrested in July on suspicion of corruption and trying to intercept communications, and could face charges early next year. He was editor of the now defunct News of the World between 2003 and 2007.

News Corp unit News Group Newspapers, the publisher of the News of the World, stopped paying his legal costs relating to criminal proceedings in August, on the grounds that they were not incurred in the scope of his duties.

News Corp has admitted people working for the News of the World hacked into the phones of celebrities, politicians and others. It paid 2 million pounds ($3 million) to the parents of a murdered schoolgirl whose phone was hacked.

The ever-widening scandal has damaged the reputations of politicians and senior police officers close to Murdoch's media group.

Coulson quit as Prime Minister David Cameron's communications chief in January after Cameron was criticised for his decision to hire him.

Earlier on Wednesday, News Group lost a similar case against Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator used by the News of the World to hack phones, and will have to resume paying his fees as he defends himself against scores of civil claims.

Mulcaire went to jail in 2007 for illegally listening to telephone voice messages, along with Clive Goodman, the former royal reporter at the News of the World.

News Corp Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch and his son James told a British parliamentary committee in July they would stop paying Mulcaire's legal fees, which run at least into the hundreds of thousands of pounds (dollars).

Until early this year News Corp said Goodman had been a "rogue reporter" acting with Mulcaire's help. The company has since acknowledged that the practice of hacking went much wider at the News of the World, and shut the paper down.

A statement released on behalf of Mulcaire by his lawyer said: "As he always said, he was acting on the instruction of News Group Newspapers and he clearly needs legal representation to deal with the numerous cases."

News Group's parent company News International confirmed both rulings but declined to comment on either.

(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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