Beside the Thames in Wapping, the tide of victimhood turns. Following last week’s Southwark Crown Court verdicts, the Murdoch titles would have us believe that the person whose rights were shamefully violated was not a murdered schoolgirl, but a “vindicated” former chief executive of News International.
The conviction of one News of the World editor, Andy Coulson, is lightly glossed over as a virtual irrelevance in favour of castigating those responsible for prosecuting the one, Rebekah Brooks, who was acquitted. The Sunday Times devotes not only a full page to wondering aloud why Brooks was ever brought to court, but also a leader. “Mrs Brooks insisted on her innocence from the start, and said she was being subjected to a witch hunt,” it proclaims, as if outraged by the police’s impertinence in not taking a suspect’s word on trust. “The jury’s verdict goes a long way to bearing her out and gives the lie to those who believed phone hacking was endorsed at senior level by News International.”
No one would be so arrogant as to dispute a verdict, of course, though a certain newspaper took the trouble yesterday to remind us that it can be fallible. And so to the report in the same Sunday Times about a mock trial – conceived by the real judge who presided, and featuring real barristers – designed to illuminate flaws in the jury system. Peculiarly, it starred Alan Johnson MP, as an armed robber who stole £68,000 from a betting shop.
A dozen separate juries watched the identical trial on video, so The Sunday Times relates, and 10 of the dozen acquitted. This outcome, says Johnners, “showed that even though I was as guilty as hell, they had to be sure beyond reasonable doubt to convict me, and that is very difficult”. So it is.
One admires the newspaper’s mischievousness in juxtaposing that with its self-righteous cant about Mrs Brooks and her “witch hunt”, and appreciates its timely reminder of the distinction between proving the absolute innocence of a defendant and the prosecution’s failure to convince a jury of the certainty of the accused’s guilt.
Hacking trial: The verdicts in full
Hacking trial: The verdicts in full
1/7 Rebekah Brooks
The former News of the World editor and News International chief executive has been cleared of conspiracy to hack phones; misconduct in 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 after seven boxes were allegedly removed from the NI archive just days before 2011 arrests
2/7 Andy Coulson
Former News of the World editor and Downing Street spin doctor guilty of conspiracy to hack phones from 2000 to 2006. The jury failed to reach a majority verdict on charges of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office by allegedly paying police officers for two royal directories. He could face a retrial.
3/7 Stuart Kuttner
Retired managing editor cleared of involvement in phone-hacking conspiracy spanning six years
4/7 Cheryl Carter
Brooks' former personal assistant, cleared of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by removing seven boxes from the News International company archive just days before she was arrested in 2011
5/7 Charlie Brooks
Racehorse trainer and Rebekah Brooks' husband, cleared of perverting the course of justice around the time of police searches in July 2011
6/7 Mark Hanna
Former News International director of security, cleared of perverting the course of justice
7/7 Clive Goodman
The former News of the World royal editor, could face a retrial after the jury failed to reach a verdict on charges of committing misconduct in public office for allegedly paying police officers for two royal directories
At least Cameron is consistently cack-handed
Say what you like about the Prime Minister’s form on foreign battle fields, but acknowledge his consistency. With Jean-Claude Juncker, just as when he personally associated himself with the initiative to bring the World Cup to England, Two-Votes Cameron persuaded precisely one other nation (Hungary) to his way of thinking.
The cap is also doffed to Jeremy Hunt for dismissing those who did support Juncker as “cowards”. It isn’t every day you can praise the Health Secretary for speaking with expertise, least of all about the NHS, but he opines on personal courage with the authority of the braveheart whose reflex, on spotting journalists while on his way to a private dinner with Rupert Murdoch, was to hide behind a tree.
Andy Coulson and the second-chance saloon
A delight, as ever, to find William Hague cleaving precious moments from Brangelina’s company to grace Andrew Marr’s BBC1 show from his Chevening retreat. Yesterday, he was inevitably invited to comment on David Cameron’s hiring of Andy Coulson.
“Sometimes,” said the Foreign Secretary, parroting the line to take, “you give someone a second chance.” We will return to this matter, and try to understand the second-chance saloon distinction between breaking the law and being fitted up by it, if Andrew Mitchell is not recalled to the Cabinet in the forthcoming reshuffle.
Even white noise is better than Andy Townsend
At the risk of labouring the point, something must to be done about Andy Townsend, who retains the post of ITV’s premier football co-commentator he inherited from Ron Atkinson. Which target audience Mr Townsend has in mind when he deploys the monotone to repeat what the commentator has just said about a piece of action is not clear, and we must leave it to a judicial enquiry to determine whether it is the blind or the insomniac.
It the meantime it cannot be beyond a developer to invent a piece of smart TV software that recognises his vocal patterns, and instantly replaces him with white noise, the radio news pips, nail scraping over blackboard, Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” or any other sound known to humanity, in time for next season’s Champions League.