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PM's ex-aide Coulson guilty of phone hacking, Brooks goes free

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-06-24

Former "News of the World" editor Andy Coulson was convicted of phone hacking Tuesday while Rebekah Brooks, the former head of News Corp's British newspaper arm, was acquitted in a dramatic end to a case that shook the news industry.

The jury at the Old Bailey court in London delivered their verdicts after eight days of deliberation and nearly eight months of detailed evidence in what had been dubbed as the UK's "trial of the century".

Coulson went on to become Prime Minister David Cameron's media chief after his tenure at the paper. Soon after the verdicts were announced Cameron issued a sombre televised apology for hiring Coulson, an indications of how toxic the scandal remains nearly three years after News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch was forced to shut down the Sunday tabloid in disgrace.

Coulson, Brooks' successor as editor of "News of the World", faces a jail sentence following his conviction. The jury is still considering further charges against him and the paper's then royals editor, Clive Goodman.

An emotional Brooks had to be supported by a court nurse after she was acquitted of conspiring to intercept voicemails and of plotting to bribe officials for access to stories. Brooks' lawyers had argued that there was "no smoking gun" to link her to the phone hacking and that the evidence against her was "circumstantial".

Brooks and Coulson, both 46, had an on-and-off extramarital affair for several years while working at the paper, a further whiff of scandal that only emerged at the start of the trial.

Cameron was also friends with Brooks and once went horseback riding with her.

The case centred on the paper's decision to hack the phones of Britain's royal family, politicians and celebrities, as well as that of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

The paper's decision to hack Dowler's phone and erase her voicemails compromised the police investigation into her disappearance and gave her family false hope that she was still alive.

The paper also tried to access the voicemails of the families of people killed in the July 7, 2005, London bombings.

Brooks's current husband Charlie, a racehorse trainer, and News International director of security Mark Hanna were also cleared of perverting the course of justice by allegedly trying to hide evidence from the police.

Her former personal assistant, Cheryl Carter, was cleared of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The paper's retired managing editor Stuart Kuttner was also cleared of conspiracy to hack phones.

Cameron's 'bad decision'

The scandal raised questions about Cameron's judgment in hiring Coulson, who resigned as editor of the "News of the World" in 2007 after a journalist and private investigator were convicted of phone hacking.

Cameron had promised in parliament when the scandal first broke that he would make an apology if Coulson was found guilty and he honoured that pledge on Tuesday, saying he had given Coulson a "second chance" and that had turned out to be a mistake.

"It was a second chance, it turns out to be a bad decision, and I'm extremely sorry about that," Cameron said.

"Employing someone when they gave false assurances was the wrong decision. I'm profoundly sorry about that," he said.

Opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband said Cameron had "brought a criminal into the heart of Downing Street".

Murdoch's papers swung behind Cameron's Conservatives before Britain's last general election in 2010.

Brooks quit as head of News International, the former British newspaper wing of Murdoch's media empire, in July 2011. She had risen from being a secretary at the company to edit the "News of the World" and then went on to become one of Murdoch's top aides.

The company -- now rebranded as News UK -- said it had "made changes in the way we do business to help ensure wrongdoing like this does not occur again".

Murdoch shut down the "News of the World" amid a boycott by advertisers just over three years ago after it emerged that the paper had hacked Dowler's voicemails.

The paper was later found to have hacked a long list of public figures, including Prince William, the second-in-line to the British throne, his wife Kate Middleton, and celebrities including former Beatle Paul McCartney, and actors Jude Law and Hugh Grant.

The hacking scandal prompted an inquiry into the ethics of Britain's famously aggressive press, which made recommendations for reforming the way it is governed.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)

 

Date created : 2014-06-24

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