The long running phone hacking case at the Old Bailey has come to a dramatic conclusion with Andy Coulson being found guilty of conspiring to hack phones while heading Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World newspaper. Coulson is British PM David Cameron’s former press secretary and took over from Rebekah Brooks a confident and protege of Murdoch and others as the defunct paper’s editor.
The trial raised a raft of major moral and legal issues relating to privacy and the lengths of which newspaper have gone to access private information for stories.
Brooks face four charges during the eight month long trial and her husband, the racehorse trainer Charlie, was also cleared of charges.
The Guardian reports that Coulson stood emotionless as he absorbed the news. Looking faint and close to tears, Brooks walked with the support of the court’s matron and her solicitor Angus McBride. Charlie, also close to tears, followed, as did her secretary, Cheryl Carter, who was also cleared.
Brooks smiled as the jury forewoman called out the first of the verdicts on the four charges she faced. She smiled weakly as the first verdict of not guilty was called out, knowing she had three more to come.
Charlie, Carter and News International’s head of security, Mark Hanna, were all cleared of one count each – conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
The Brookses made no comment on the verdicts and left the Old Bailey to be confronted by a phalanx of photographers, TV crews and members of the public as she was shepherded to an awaiting taxi. Asked if she had a comment to make, Brooks’ solicitor Angus McBride said she couldn’t say anything because the trial was ongoing with several verdicts still to be reached.
The News of the World’s former managing editor Stuart Kuttner was also found not guilty on phone-hacking charges, but the jury have not reached unanimous verdicts on two further charges faced by Coulson and one charge faced by the News of the World’s former royal editor Clive Goodman.
The judge instructed them to deliberate further and gave them a majority direction, which means they can return with a verdict that is not unanimous.
Coulson’s verdict raised immediate questions for Cameron, who hired him as director of communications only a few weeks after he quit the News of the World.
In a brief statement to camera, the prime minister offered a “full and frank apology” for employing Andy Coulson at 10 Downing Street, saying: “It was the wrong decision and I am very clear about that.”
He said he had given Coulson a second chance after he left the News of the World but conceded this was the wrong decision.