Hacking trial: One rogue editor. After a trial that exposed the extent of illegal phone hacking in the Murdoch empire, former News of the World boss Andy Coulson is found guilty, but five other defendants walk free


Political Correspondent

Andy Coulson, the former tabloid editor once at the centre of Downing Street's communication operations is facing a prison sentence after being found guilty of conspiring to hack mobile phones when he worked for Rupert Murdoch’s News International. 

In a drama-filled day both inside and outside the Old Bailey, Coulson’s former boss at the News of the World, Rebekah Brooks, was cleared of all charges against her including hacking, involvement in elaborate operations to hide evidence from the police, and bribing public officials.

The verdict against Coulson - who is still awaiting the outcome of two further charges and facing a perjury charge in Scotland – causes immediate problems for David Cameron who first hired him as his spin doctor before taking him into Number 10.

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader,  wasted little time in demanding the Prime Minister answer “very, very serious questions” about his government being “tainted by a serious error of judgment” adding: “Because now we know he brought at criminal into the heart of Downing Street.”

Mr Cameron appeared to suggest that Coulson had been allowed to by-pass any serious vetting from the security services, even though he would have had access to highly classified material.

Read more:
Coulson found guilty as Brooks cleared of all charges
Hacking trial: David Cameron issues 'full and frank apology
The scandal that led to press' self-examination
How hacking scandal punctured the puffed-up House of Murdoch

On what checks Coulson faced, Mr Cameron said : “I asked him questions, if he knew about phone hacking. He said he didn’t and I accepted those assurances and gave him the job.” He added “I am extremely sorry that I employed him.”

The decisions of the jury, who have so far spent just under nine days considering eight months of evidence, caused an outpouring of emotion.

The apparent calmness Coulson had shown throughout his time in the witness box continued. He stood, staring ahead,  looking almost emotionless in the dock as the verdicts were read out.

Mrs Brooks’ reaction suggested the scale of the stress she had been under during the months of the trial, and throughout the years since her arrest in 2011. Her relief was not fully evident till all the verdicts against her were completed.

She looked directly towards the jury foreman and appeared to smile and mouth “thank you”. Standing next to her husband Charlie, and her former assistant Cheryl Carter, both found not guilty of the charges against them, she reached to hold their hands.

Outside court 12, in the hallway that had been a source of brief calm during daily breaks from proceedings, she was helped to walk by the court matron and her solicitor, Angus McBride.

Rebekah Brooks and her husband Charlie arriving at the Old Bailey (Reuters) Rebekah Brooks and her husband Charlie arriving at the Old Bailey (Reuters)
Mr Brooks look unsure what the appropriate emotion should be and appeared to be both smiling and close to crying at the same time.

In the traditions of the Bailey, those cleared know the cameras are the photographers will be waiting outside. A victory speech, or a show of relief, is expected. The Brookses did neither. The couple were helped into taxi and left saying nothing.

However tonight  Mr Brooks,  speaking on LBC radio, accused Scotland Yard of treating him and his wife like "terrorists". Describing a dawn raid at their Oxfordshire home when Scotland Yard officers searched their baby daughter's cot, he said  "It was 4.45 in the morning and 18 of them came through our kitchen door. [They] treated us like terrorists and carted us off to different police stations."

Cheryl Carter, Ms Brooks' former personal assistant, was also found not guilty (Getty) Cheryl Carter, Ms Brooks' former personal assistant, was also found not guilty (Getty)
Mr Brooks said he now expected “an apology” from Mr Cameron, criticising the way the Prime Minister, once regarded as a friend, had reacted.

The NOTW’s former managing editor, Stuart Kuttner, who was absent from some of the trial due to illness, was also found not guilty on phone hacking charges. Outside the Central Criminal Court Mr Kuttner praised the passion of his defence team led by Jonathan Caplan QC as “extraordinary and remarkable” adding “I owe them huge and enduring thanks.”

David Blunkett, the former home secretary who was targeted by the NOTW and lied to by Coulson during an interview in Sheffield in 2004, said he had come close to a nervous breakdown [ at the that time]  telling the BBC “I don’t know how I managed to continue doing the job in the way I did.”

Just after 11am the judge revealed that the jury would were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the two counts of conspiracy against Coulson and the NOTW’s former royal editor, Clive Goodman. The judge later directed them that he would now accept a majority decision. The court will now accept a 10-1 decision. One of the jurors was discharged earlier in the trial proceedings after taking ill.

Former Home Secretary David Blunkett (Getty) Former Home Secretary David Blunkett (Getty)

Following concern that the still-live deliberations of the jury were not being respected, Mr Justice Saunders, in a separate hearing with defence counsel and attending media, urged politicians and the public to restrain from commenting on the case till the trial was completely concluded.

In the Commons parts of Treasury Question Time became dominated by the trial outcome. The Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, attacked George Osborne, saying that as he had conducted the initial 2007 interview with Coulson “Does the Chancellor now accept it was terrible error of judgement”. He further accused Mr Osborne of bringing the office of the chancellor into disrepute.

In reply, and citing the chequered career and reputation of Gordon Brown’s former spin doctor, Mr Osborne said: ” Can I say the person who worked alongside Damien McBride is no person to give lectures on anything.”

Read more:
How culture of News of the World's glory days led to its downfall
Coulson's future depends on privacy denied the hacking victims

The Speaker, John Bercow, intervened to end the spat.

News International spent four years insisting that hacking inside the NOTW was restricted to one “rogue reporter” despite knowing this was not the case   After the verdicts the rebranded Murdoch-owned company issued a statement saying: “We said long ago, and repeat today, that wrongdoing occurred, and we apologised for it. We have been paying compensation to those affected and have co-operated with investigations.” They added that “out of respect” of the on-going legal proceedings, they would make no further comment.

The guilty verdict against Coulson means five former NOTW journalists are now facing a jail sentence over phone hacking. They are former newsdesk editors, Greg Miskiw, James Weatherup and Neville Thurlbeck, along with the former reporter Dan Evans. The four, along with private investigator Glenn Mulcaire pleaded guilty to hacking offences.

Go-to hacker: private investigator Glenn Mulcaire (Getty) Go-to hacker: private investigator Glenn Mulcaire (Getty)
Sentencing is expected to take place a few days after the jury decides on the remaining counts against Coulson and Goodman.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before