Leveson Inquiry: Coogan says reporters rifled his bins

Steve Coogan says reporters searched his bins

Steve Coogan has told an inquiry into media ethics that reporters have been through his rubbish bins, looking for "lurid" details of his private life.

The comedian also denied a tabloid story from 2007 which claimed he took drugs with the US actor Owen Wilson.

He said some people entered a "Faustian pact" with the press but he had never sought fame and was a private person.

Lord Justice Leveson is hearing from alleged victims of media intrusion at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

'Closet empty'

The star - best known for his character Alan Partridge - said photographers often sat outside his flat with cameras and he had seen reporters go through his rubbish bins looking for a story.

Two days into the evidence at an inquiry into press standards, and already there have been complaints about the way some sections of the press are reporting it.

When Hugh Grant, inside the hearing, accused the Mail on Sunday of hacking his phone, the newspaper, outside the courtroom, accused the actor of "mendacious smears".

His barrister said this was less of a right of reply, more a right of attack. The paper maintained it was responding to a serious allegation of criminal conduct supported by the "flimsiest of material".

The concern, which is shared by Lord Justice Leveson, is that witnesses might be put off raising their head above the parapet and criticising the way reporters behave, if they fear they'll be attacked in print once they leave the witness box.

"I saw them from my bedroom window," he told the court. "They did not look like tramps - not far off."

He told the inquiry that he understood aspects of his personal and professional work did not meet the approval of some tabloid editors.

But he added: "I do not believe that gives them the right to hack my voicemail, intrude into my privacy or the privacy of people who know me, or print damaging lies."

Mr Coogan described how he got a court order forcing the police to disclose the notebook of Glenn Mulcaire - the private investigator employed by the News of the World (NoW) who was jailed for phone hacking in 2007.

The comedian said he was shown a redacted copy which included details of the account number and password for his mobile phone account as well as the amount he paid for a hotel bill.

Earlier, the inquiry heard from other witnesses who gave accounts of media practices they had encountered.

They included:

Mr Coogan also referred to a 2007 story in the Daily Mail suggesting he had taken drugs with his friend, the actor Owen Wilson.

He said at the time of the alleged episode he had not been in the same continent as the actor for nine months. He also said he had not taken drugs with him.

Asked why he did not contact the Press Complaints Commission about the story, he said: "On this occasion the potential soap opera that would ensue outweighs any benefit I would have from some sort of retraction.

"And also the effort involved in going through legal action - really, it's as effective in some cases to do nothing, because the story just goes away.

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"The main reason I didn't do anything is because on balance, what you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts, if you complain you push the story forward and keep it up there in the newspapers."

He also described how a NoW reporter under the editorship of Andy Coulson called him to say he was going to be the subject of a sting operation related to a story about him having an affair.

He said the showbiz reporter, Rav Singh, told him in a separate phone call that he wanted to help him and that, if he confirmed certain aspects of the affair, the more lurid details would be left out.

Mr Coogan told the inquiry: "After that, my manager received a phone call from Andy Coulson saying they had recorded the whole phone call and they were going to print it in the newspaper."

Earlier, he said he never wanted to be famous and liked to keep himself private.

He said he had been the subject of "several" kiss and tell stories and his closet was now "empty of skeletons" due to the press.

"I'm not someone who wants to get involved in waving a banner for the right to privacy, but not many other people similar to me were doing it," he said.

"The reason other - for want of a better word 'celebrities' - don't want to, is that they say they don't have the stomach for it and fear what will happen.

"My closet is empty of skeletons due to the press, so admittedly, I'm immune in some ways."

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