Hacking-trial reporter denies lying
A former News of the World reporter denied today making false allegations about his boss Andy Coulson's involvement in phone hacking, saying he "bitterly regretted" he had not been braver at the time.
Dan Evans, 38, claims then-editor Coulson knew about his activities and told him a voicemail he taped from Sienna Miller to Daniel Craig exposing their alleged affair was "brilliant".
But on his third day in the witness box at the Old Bailey, Coulson's lawyer Timothy Langdale QC suggested Evans had been untruthful.
During the cross-examination, jurors heard what happened after Evans was caught hacking into the phone of designer Kelly Hoppen and his subsequent decision to try for immunity from prosecution by lifting the lid on hacking at the News of the World (NotW).
Evans admitted he initially lied when he was caught trying to hack into Ms Hoppen's phone.
When questioned about the lie, he insisted he was just "toeing the line" but now "I appear to be open, honest and truthful".
He added: "I bitterly regret I did not take a braver course of action at the time."
Mr Langdale accused Evans of "blaming others for things you have done at the time", to which he replied: "I would not say so, sir."
Evans was arrested in August 2011 and produced a prepared statement for police.
He told the court that statement was "cobblers" and he had just been "maintaining the lie".
He had claimed what Mr Langdale described as "the sticky keys defence" - that his Nokia phone has faulty keys.
Mr Langdale put it to Evans that by December 2011 he had been seeking immunity from prosecution.
"That was your target. To try to get away without being prosecuted at all?" Mr Langdale asked.
Evans admitted the fact that he had lied about hacking Ms Hoppen's phone was "the fly in the ointment" to securing immunity.
He said: "As I say, I was a very frightened man at the time. I did not know what to do. I'm very sorry for lying at the time."
Evans was questioned as to why he had made a statement that hacking was discussed at editorial conferences when these were meetings he did not attend.
The witness replied that he was told by a colleague when he came out of conference.
Mr Langdale said: "You are prone to making sweeping assertions that are not based on fact."
He replied: "That is not correct, sir, even though I can imagine why you would want people to think that."
On the prospect of Evans getting immunity, Mr Langdale said: "You would have had to have information about people at senior levels and if you did that, you might be a good candidate for getting immunity from prosecution for yourself."
Evans replied: "Yes."
Mr Langdale asked Evans about the taped voicemail from Miller to Bond star Craig and the allegation that Coulson knew about it, saying: "I suggest to you that is not true."
Evans replied: "I did not see you there at the time. It is true."
The witness was challenged on Coulson's reaction on hearing the voicemail tape.
The barrister asked: "Yesterday you told this court Mr Coulson, when you played the tape voicemail message of Sienna Miller, to you said 'Brilliant!'. Is that truthful evidence?"
Evans replied: "That is truthful. The exact word may be paraphrasing."
Mr Langdale said: "You have got a bit of a habit of doing that."
The barrister read from papers relating to the talks Evans had with his legal team about his potential involvement in the hacking trial.
The court heard Evans had said: "My ultimate goal is that there is not evidence against me and prosecution."
He said he "did not want to go down this route" and did "not want to lose control".
Evans told the jury: "That's right - I did not want to go through this process. I was in denial."
In a police interview in July 2012, which was read out in court, Evans said he had always been passionate about his "craft".
But he said: "I can pinpoint the moment many years ago I took the wrong path.
"I want to look my kids in the eye and tell them they need to be honest... I want to go down my life on the right path."
As negotiations continued for immunity, Evans told solicitors that he had hacked the phones of Cilla Black, racing driver Jenson Button and at least one other, the court heard.
Evans joined the News of the World in 2005 after he was poached from the Sunday Mirror.
The court heard that Evans has already admitted conspiracy to hack phones at the Sunday Mirror between February 2003 and January 2005, and the same offence at the News of the World between April 2004 and June 2010.
He also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office between January 2008 and June 2010, and perverting the course of justice by giving a false statement in High Court proceedings.
Former NotW editor Coulson, 46, a PR consultant from Charing, Kent, denies conspiring to hack phones and conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office.
Seven defendants, including former Sun and NotW editor Rebekah Brooks, deny all the charges against them.
Talks had been around whether full immunity under Section 71 of the Serious and Organised Crime Police Act (Socpa) was possible and also the prospect of Section 73 immunity, which would have involved a guilty plea and full co-operation in the hope of getting a reduced sentence.
Mr Landgale pointed out to Evans that by August 2012: "You were ready to do just about anything to get your Section 71 immunity."
Evans told the court: "I was ready to move forward with the situation I was in."
In talks with his legal team, Evans had stated that "full immunity is the only thing I am after".
He told the court today that this was his position "for a long time".
By September it became clear that Section 71 immunity was not likely and that prosecutors had completely ruled it out by January 2013, the court heard.
A letter from the Crown Prosecution Service to Evans's legal team in January, read out by Mr Langdale, noted: "Were he (Evans) to give evidence (against) others charged he would be vulnerable to the charge that he had made up all this in order to exculpate himself and blame others.
"There is a real possibility he could weaken the prosecution case should this course of action be adopted."
Asked by Mr Langdale about how the quest for immunity fitted in with Evans's earlier statement that he wanted to be able to look his children in the eye, the reporter said: "As you appreciate, you take guidance from your lawyers."
He said he had felt like he was being "used as a football by all those involved in this game".
Evans claimed that he felt accepting a Section 73 agreement was not really an option. Referring to a note from his lawyers about a Section 73 offer, the court was told he replied: "Please reject the offer. We should waste no time with this."
He told the court: "It was a situation where I felt there was no stomach to take the investigation forward. It went against the advice that I was having from the outset."
Mr Langdale suggested this was "an example of you blaming others".
Describing it as a "misunderstanding", Evans replied: "The misunderstanding was that there was ever a Section 71 agreement possible. I understand now that a Section 71 agreement is usually only ever given to people who are saving lives."
He claimed this had not been made clear to him from the beginning.
The court heard that, in August last year, Evans signed up to an agreement to give police a full briefing on his involvement in hacking, enter guilty pleas, and agree to give evidence in court if needed.
Asked by Mr Langdale why he did not just leave the NotW if he was so unhappy, Evans said: "I didn't want to be turned away with my tail between my legs. I wanted to be a success at it. I became a father. I was too worried about money. (A senior NotW journalist) knocked my confidence pretty hard."
Mr Langdale suggested there was nothing to stop him leaving, but Evans said: "There's nothing to stop me jumping off a bridge but I didn't do that."
Evans insisted hacking was an "open secret" in the office.
"I was conscious that what I was doing was wrong. It was widely known, it was widely held this was going on.
"Other reporters asked me to do things on their behalf, usually at the behest of the desk."
Pressed on the subject again, he repeated: "I did not broadcast it because that would have been crass but everybody knew."
Raising his voice slightly, Evans said: "The truth is that Andy Coulson knew exactly what was going on on his watch."