Hacking trial: Judge blasts senior politicians for disregarding 'the rule of law'

 

Political Correspondent

The judge in the hacking trial has accused David Cameron and other senior politicians of engaging in an “open season” disregard for “justice and the rule of law”.

Mr Justice Saunders’ criticism of the Prime Minister centred on a “full and frank” public apology from Mr Cameron who admitted he had made the “wrong decision” to employ Coulson after he left the News of the World in 2007.

The former News International editor, a key figure in Rupert Murdoch’s UK print company, was appointed the Conservatives' head of communication, and was later taken into 10 Downing Street following the 2010 general election.

The comments from Mr Cameron and other politicians, including the Labour leader Ed Miliband – who said the PM had “brought a criminal in the heart of Downing Street” – were issued before the jury in the hacking trial had completed its work.

Although Coulson was found guilty of hacking, with Rebekah Brooks and three others all found not guilty on the charges against them, four other charges were still to be decided by the jury.

The judge said the premature Cameron-Miliband interventions had caused him concern.

Sir John [Saunders] said : ‘I don’t know whether it’s been done in ignorance or been done deliberately” adding “what happened is unsatisfactory so far as justice and the rule of law are concerned”.

He wrote to the Prime Minister requesting an explanation. Advised by Downing Street lawyers, Mr Cameron cited “intense media coverage and understandable public interest”, claiming he had “been careful” not to make comment on matters still before the court.

The judge however said Mr Cameron’s explanation “misses the point” and that the comments by the PM that Coulson had given him “assurances” about not knowing about hacking, had not been presented as evidence during the trial.

The judge said this was capable of “affecting” Coulson credibility during the jury’s deliberations.

Although an application to discharge the jury over the prejudicial comments was made by Coulson’s counsel, Timothy Langdale QC, the judge’s decision to dismiss it proved academic when the jury failed to reach majority verdicts on the outstanding charges and were formally discharged.

The Crown Prosecution Service is expected to announce on Monday whether it will seek a retrial for Clive Goodman, the former royal editor of the News of the World, and Coulson, over four charges of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office by paying royal police officers for internal royal phone directories.

Sentencing hearings on Coulson and five other former News International employees, who pleaded guilty to phone hacking before the trial proceedings began last October, will also begin on Monday.

The sentences are expected to be issued the following Friday.

News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
News
people
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
art

The Sistine Chapel is set to be illuminated with thousands of LEDs

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?