Andy Coulson bullying case costs NoW £800,000

Andy Coulson; Rupert Murdoch

Reporter who once worked under Tory spin doctor is awarded £800,000 for unfair dismissal

BY Jack Bremer LAST UPDATED AT 07:35 ON Tue 24 Nov 2009

Tory leader David Cameron's head of communications, Andy Coulson, is the subject of an embarrassing employment tribunal decision handed down in east London yesterday. It awarded £800,000 for unfair dismissal to a sports reporter who worked on the News of the World when Coulson was editor.

Matt Driscoll, a sports reporter who was sacked in 2007 while on long-term sick leave for stress-related depression, was found to have suffered from a culture of bullying for which Coulson (above, behind his former News International bosses Les Hinton and Rupert Murdoch) was held responsible. The award of £792,736 is believed to be the highest payout of its kind in media history.

Driscoll said afterwards: "Andy Coulson was at the heart of all of this. He should look at himself and decide if his actions in the course of the way I was treated were correct.

"If I were him, I would find it very hard to look in the mirror. I was subjected to unprecedented bullying and he did nothing to stop it, if anything he accelerated it. I didn't do anything wrong."

Driscoll claimed he was one of "the top 30 sports writers in the country" until he "came up against the venom of Andy Coulson". He added: "It has taken an incredible amount of strength to take on the richest news group in the world and win. I don't think anyone has ever done that before with the success that I have."

The tribunal heard that Driscoll was highly regarded in his first few years after joining the paper in 1997. But in August 2005 Coulson turned against him after he failed to "stand up" a story that Arsenal were planning to play in purple shirts. The story then appeared in the Sun and Coulson was not impressed.

As a result, Driscoll was subject to disciplinary proceedings and issued with formal warnings. The tribunal decided these were a pretext and that Coulson had decided he wanted to "get shot" of him. In an email in the summer of 2006 to his deputy, Coulson wrote that he wanted Driscoll "out as quickly and cheaply as possible".

When Driscoll went on sick leave with stress, executives at the News of the World continued to send emails, make phone calls and even visited his home to demand that he see a company doctor.

Coulson resigned from the News of the World in January 2007 after the paper's then royal editor, Clive Goodman, was convicted of hacking into the phone messages of royal family aides. · 

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