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Further charges ruled out in phone hacking case

No further charges will be brought over the News of the World phone hacking scandal because witnesses refused to co-operate with police, the Director of Public Prosecutions said today.

Keir Starmer QC said the Sunday paper's former reporter Sean Hoare made claims in a New York Times article about the Prime Minister's communications chief Andy Coulson, who has faced calls to resign over the matter.

But Mr Hoare refused to comment when questioned by police while other witnesses "either refused to co-operate with the police investigation, provided short statements which did not advance matters or denied any knowledge of wrongdoing", Mr Starmer said.

Mr Coulson was editor of the News of the World in 2007 when its royal editor Clive Goodman was jailed for conspiracy to access phone messages involving Princes William and Harry, but always denied any knowledge of the practice.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was asked to consider the case when a Scotland Yard inquiry was revived after an investigation by the New York Times which alleged that the practice was more widespread at the paper than previously admitted.

But today Mr Starmer said: "Sean Hoare, who made significant allegations in the New York Times and elsewhere, was interviewed by the police but refused to comment.

"A number of other witnesses were interviewed and either refused to co-operate with the police investigation, provided short statements which did not advance matters, or denied any knowledge of wrongdoing.

"Against that background, there is no admissible evidence upon which the CPS could properly advise the police to bring criminal charges.

"The contents of the reports in the New York Times and the associated reports and coverage are not enough for criminal proceedings unless those making allegations are prepared to provide the police with admissible evidence to support their assertions.

"None have been prepared to do so."

A panel of police officers and prosecutors will be put together to investigate any further allegations that are made in the future, he said.

Mr Starmer added: "I have made it clear that a robust attitude needs to be taken to any unauthorised interception.

"But a criminal prosecution can only take place if those making allegations of wrongdoing are prepared to co-operate with a criminal investigation and to provide admissible evidence of the wrongdoing they allege.

"It is possible that further allegations will be made and the CPS remains willing to consider any evidence submitted to us by the police.

"To facilitate this, the CPS and the Metropolitan Police Service intend to convene a panel of police officers and prosecutors to assess those allegations with a view to determining whether or not investigations should take place."

Scotland Yard said the police investigation will remain closed, saying the CPS advice they received read: "There is insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction against any person identified in the New York Times article.

"In fact, I consider that the available evidence falls well below that threshold."

Labour MP and former minister Chris Bryant, who believes he was one of those targeted for eavesdropping, has said he thought it was "inconceivable" that Mr Coulson did not know what was being done by reporters under his command.

Former News of the World executive Paul McMullan, who has previously admitted hacking into phones and alleged that Mr Coulson was aware of the practice, has accused his ex-editor of turning his back on the journalists who worked for him.

Today, Mr Coulson admitted his editorial team did not "get it right" in Goodman's case as he gave evidence to the perjury trial of former MSP Tommy Sheridan.

He insisted yesterday that he had never heard of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed along with Goodman, until the allegations emerged.

"I don't accept there was a culture of phone hacking at the News of the World," he told the court.

Mr Coulson also denied that his staff practised the "dark arts" of journalism, saying: "As far as my reporters were concerned they were to work within the law and to work within the PCC (Press Complaints Commission) code."

The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee is conducting an inquiry into phone-hacking and the police response to allegations.

And the Commons agreed in September to refer claims that the newspaper had targeted MPs' phones to the House's Standards and Privileges Committee to investigate.