|David Cameron is said to have full confidence in Coulson amid the allegations [EPA]|
The media advisor to David Cameron, the British prime minister, is facing allegations he knew about illegal phone-hacking by reporters when he was editor at a major tabloid newspaper.
Andy Coulson said on Monday he would discuss the claims with police, who are considering re-opening an investigation into suggestions that hacking was a widespread practice at the News of the World, Britain’s biggest selling aper.
The move comes after the New York Times, in its own investigation, quoted a former reporter as saying that Coulson knew about alleged phone-hacking by journalists on the paper, bringing back to light a scandal that first emerged three years ago.
In 2007, one of the News of the World‘s senior journalists and a private investigator were jailed for intercepting messages left for royal officials, including some from Princes Harry and William.
Coulson, who resigned shortly after the scandal, insisted he knew nothing of the phone-acking, blaming it on a “rogue” reporter.
On Monday, Coulson re-iterated that he was not involved in any such practice at the paper, but said he was willing to meet with police.
“Mr Coulson emphatically denies these allegations. He has, however, offered to talk to officers if the need arises and would welcome the opportunity to give his view,” his spokesman said.
The News of the World also said it rejected the claims in a statement released on Monday.
Cameron is said to be supporting his media advisor amid the allegations.
“He has full confidence in Andy Coulson and he continues to do his job,” a spokesman for Cameron said.
“He has denied those allegations and the prime minister accepts that.”
Several opposition politicians are also calling for a re-investigation, claiming that police had failed to fully investigated the case the first time around.
John Prescott, Labour’s former deputy prime minister, who believes he may have been targeted by News of the World phone-hacking, called for police to reopen their probe, saying he was “far from satisfied” with their handling of his case.
Conflict of interest
The New York Times, in a lengthy piece published last week, claimed breaking in to voicemail messages was a matter of routine in the News of the World’s newsroom, and that Coulson had participated in dozens, or even hundreds, of meetings where the hacking was discussed.
Since then, former News of the World reporter Sean Hoare, who was quoted by the Times, another UK newspaper, also told the BBC that Coulson knew of the practice.
The News of the World has questioned the New York Times’ motives in pursuing the case, saying there was a conflict of interest in investigating a rival newspaper group.
The tabloid is owned by News International Ltd, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, whose US media outlets include Fox Television, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post – which is in fierce competition with the New York Times.
John Yates, assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said the force was seeking any new information and was particularly interested in statements by Hoare, who told the Times that Coulson had asked him to hack into phones.
“This is the first time we have heard of Mr Hoare or anything he has to say,” Yates told the BBC.
“He has come from nowhere. We are surprised that the New York Times did not alert us to this information earlier than they did.”