The phone hacking trial of originally eight and finally seven defendants finally concluded yesterday, 25 June 2014, having begun on 28 October 2013. It end with a verdict of guilty on Count 1, conspiracy to intercept voicemails, against former News of the World Editor Andy Coulson. The jury were unable to agree on two charges of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office against Andy Coulson and Clive Goodman. The other five defendants – Rebekah Brooks, Stuart Kuttner, Charlie Brooks, Cheryl Carter and Mark Hanna – we acquitted on all charges.
On the final day, there was one last defence application – to discharge the jury “on the basis that it is no longer possible for Mr Coulson and Mr Goodman to have a fair trial” on these two counts. The application was based on the publicity following the verdicts delivered on 24 June 2014 and, in particular, the statement issued by the Prime Minister concerning Mr Coulson’s conviction
Mr Justice Saunders handed down a ruling yesterday [pdf] noting that he had asked for an explanation from the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary. He expressed dissatisfaction but decided not to discharge the jury due to the publicity. The jury were, however, discharged in any event shortly afterwards, having failed to reach a verdict on these counts after they had deliberated for 43 hours 52 minutes.
In discharging the 11 remaining jurors the Judge said
“The country owes you a great debt of gratitude … The public were entitled to know who was criminally responsible at the News of the World . .. You are a wonderful example of a jury working as a unit”
Following the conclusion of the trial Peter Jukes, whose tweets have provided an invaluable resource for those following the trial, revealed a number of matters which had previously been the subject of reporting restrictions and which will shortly be dealt with in detail in his book Beyond Contempt: The Inside Story of the Phone Hacking Trial
The points made by Peter Jukes include:
- That huge ring binders of prejudicial tweets were delivered every week to the judge by Brooks’ defence team.
- Brooks’ defence team consistently argued that she could not receive a fair trial due to prejudicial publicity.
- At one point there were three separate police investigations into allegations a juror might be suborned – all turned out to be false.
- The private cost to News Corp for 6 private defences has not been revealed – but one defence cost more per hour than prosecution team per day.
- So the £100 million estimate for hacking trial plus police was at least 75% paid for by News (who were meeting the defence costs of most of the defendants).
- Former News of the World lawyer Tom Crone was arrested a second time in November 2013.
- Les Hinton, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson have already been interview under caution for corporate charges.
In response to the media criticism of the prosecution, the CPS yesterday issued the following statement:
“This case was not about whether phone hacking took place or whether public officials were paid for information; there are a significant number of recent convictions which show that both did happen.
“This has been a lengthy and complex trial which was required to explore a culture of invading privacy. Despite a number of applications by the defence to have the case thrown out the Judge agreed that the evidence was sufficient for consideration by the jury.
“The jury has found that Andy Coulson, former editor of a national newspaper, conspired with others to hack phones. Others who have admitted their role in this illegal practice – Greg Miskiw, Neville Thurlbeck, James Weatherup, Glenn Mulcaire and Dan Evans – all now face sentencing for phone hacking.
“We respect the verdicts and will inform the court on Monday of our decision on whether to retry the outstanding counts.
“As closely linked criminal proceedings are underway, I have nothing further to add at this time.”
[Updated] In addition, a statement was made by Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick who said
‘This has been a complex and challenging investigation which has culminated in a trial lasting almost eight months. Five people have already pleaded guilty to serious criminal offences before this trial.
Throughout the investigation we have done our best to follow the evidence, without fear or favour. We were conscious of the sensitivities and legal complexities of investigating a national newspaper containing confidential journalistic material.
This investigation has never been about an attack on press freedom but one to establish whether any criminal offences had been committed, to establish who was responsible for committing them and to bring them to justice. The victims deserved no less.
Along with the verdicts, I hope this will give some comfort to the many victims that justice has been served.
Those found not guilty have been exonerated after a thorough police investigation and fair trial. It was right that the issues were aired publically in a court of law.
There are other cases yet to be heard and I am therefore unable to say anything further at this stage except to thank the senior investigating officer and all his team for their integrity and professionalism and the CPS and prosecuting team for their support.’