Hacking trial: Coulson jury discharged after failing to reach verdict

The trial judge heavily criticised David Cameron's comments on Tuesday

The hacking trial jury has been discharged after failing to reach verdicts on two charges against former No 10 spin doctor Andy Coulson and ex News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office by paying police officers for two royal directories.

The trial judge had considered halting proceedings following criticism by Coulson's lawyer of the Prime Minister's "ill-advised and premature intervention" in the case, it can now be reported.

Mr Justice Saunders said he was "very concerned" about the comments made by the PM after Coulson was found guilty of plotting to hack phones at the News of the World but while verdicts were pending on other charges.

The judge said Mr Cameron led the way in what the judge described as "open season" by immediately offering a public apology for hiring Coulson in 2007. Mr Cameron issued a statement saying he was “extremely sorry” for his appointment at a time when the jury was deliberating on two remaining counts against him.

Video: Miliband and Cameron clash over Coulson

Jurors have now been discharged, not because of prejudicial comments but because they failed to reach verdicts on the final charges after nine days deliberation.

A decision on whether there will be a re-trial will be made on Monday.

The news came as Mr Cameron was challenged again over his links to Coulson.

The Labour leader Ed Miliband accused Mr Cameron of “wilfully ignoring warnings” him, claiming the Prime Minister had made history by “being the first ever occupant of his office to bring a criminal into Downing Street.”

Meanwhile, it has been claimed that Rupert Murdoch will be interviewed by police investigating the possibility of a corporate charge against News UK – formally known as News International  - which will be conducted under caution, according to The Guardian.

The newspaper reports that Mr Murdoch was first contacted by detectives looking to question him last year, but says it agreed to a request from his lawyers that they wait until the trial was finished.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said they were "not prepared to discuss" the newspaper’s report.

VIDEO: CAMERON'S APOLOGY FOR EMPLOYING COULSON
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

Coulson, who resigned as Mr Cameron's director of communications after the allegations about phone hacking resurfaced, faced a maximum two years in jail for hacking following the high-profile trial.

The married father-of-three was recruited by Chancellor George Osborne to head the Tory media operation within months of resigning as News of the World editor in January 2007.

When Mr Cameron entered Downing Street the former journalist took on duties heading the Number 10 spin operation, quitting shortly before he was arrested over the phone-hacking scandal.

The former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, 46, was cleared of hacking, misconduct in a public office for allegedly signing off payments to a Sun journalist's "number one military contact" between 2004 and 2012, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and perverting the course of justice.

Her husband Charlie Brooks was cleared of perverting the course of justice around the time of police searches in July 2011.

Retired managing editor Stuart Kuttner, 74, was also cleared of being part of the hacking conspiracy dating back to 2000 and spanning six years. As he left court, he gave his "enduring thanks" to his legal team.

Brooks's former personal assistant Cheryl Carter, 50, of Chelmsford, Essex, was cleared of perverting the course of justice by removing seven boxes from the NI archive days before she was arrested in 2011.

NI head of security Mark Hanna, 51, was cleared of perverting the course of justice around the time of police searches in July 2011.

Additional reporting by PA

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