Andy Coulson
Fomer News of the World editor Andy Coulson has consistenly denied any knowledge of phone hacking during his time at the tabloid

Copyright: Lewis Whyld/PA
Former News of the World features editor Paul McMullan alleged today that Andy Coulson not only knew about phone hacking at the tabloid but "brought the practice wholesale with him when he was appointed deputy editor".

Coulson – who went on to become Downing Street director of communications under David Cameron and has consistently denied any knowledge of hacking during his time at the News of the World – was promoted to deputy editor in 2000 from his position as writer of the title's Bizarre showbiz column.

During candid testimony at the
Leveson inquiry this afternoon, McMullan said it was "obvious" that Coulson was involved in phone hacking at the newspaper.

"We did all these things for our editors, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson. You only have to read Andy Coulson's column in Bizarre.

"It would just be written that poster A had left a message on poster B's phone at two in the morning.

"It was that blatant and obvious."

Asked simply whether his editors at the News of the World had known about phone hacking, McMullan said: "Yes".

"They should have had the conviction to say 'yes, sometimes you have to get into grey areas for the public good and yes sometimes we asked our reporters to do these things'.

"Instead they turned on us.

"They should have been the heroes of journalism, instead they are the scum of journalism for trying to drop me and my colleagues in it."

Both Coulson and his predecessor Brooks, who have
both been arrested by the Metropolitan police teams investigating phone hacking and corrupt police payments, deny any knowledge of either practice during their time at the News of the World.

Phone hacking was made illegal in 2000 under the regulation of investigatory powers act, the same year Coulson was made deputy editor. McMullan left the title in 2001, two years before Coulson was appointed editor.

McMullan admitted during his wide-ranging testimony that he had attempted to hack the phone of David Beckham but failed when Beckham answered the phone unexpectedly.

He didn't say when the attempt had taken place, but he appeared to admit to having accessed Beckham's voicemail on other occasions, telling the inquiry of the failed attempt that he "didn't hack the phone in that instance, because [Beckham] answered really quickly".

McMullan said that he wasn't aware of email hacking at the title, which is being investigated by a separate Met police team, but no allegations of computer crimes have arisen relating to the period before he left.

McMullan also
defended the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone during his testimony, claiming that it was "honourable" and done by "well-meaning journalists".