A great day for the red tops? Up to a point... - Press Gazette

A great day for the red tops? Up to a point...

'Great day for red tops' was The Sun's playful front-page interpretation of the hacking trial verdicts today.

With former Sun and News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks cleared of all charges (phone-hacking, payments to public officials and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice) it was right…up to a point.

Veteran News International campaigner Stuart Kuttner was also cleared of conspiracy to hack phones and three 'civilian' defendants: former News International head of security Mark Hanna, Charlie Brooks and PA Cheryl Carter were also cleared of conspiring to destroy or conceal evidence.

But the fact remains that three journalists have pleaded guilty to phone-hacking at the News of the World: former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck and former newsdesk journalists Greg Miskiw and James Weatherup, as has private investigator Glenn Mulcaire (on fresh charges) who worked full-time for the paper.

The News of the World's editor from 2003 to 2007 Andy Coulson was also yesterday found guilty of conspiracy to hack phones.

And a reporter who gave evidence during the trial against his former colleagues, Dan Evans, admitted hacking phones not just at the News of the World (between April 2004 and June 2010) but at the Sunday Mirror (between February 2003 and January 2005).

So we can now say with certainty that at least seven News of the World staff (including Clive Goodman, convicted in 2007) were involved in phone-hacking. For a long time after the initial two phone-hacking convictions of 2007 the News of the World insisted that he was the only reporter involved in the practice.

Brooks has now been cleared of any criminality, there was no credible evidence that she knew phone-hacking was going on under her watch. But the fact remains it did go on under her watch – so she must take some ultimate responsibility.

There's a great piece by James Doleman of The Drum here explaining why Brooks was deservedly cleared of all charges.

Yesterday was a good a day for News UK (formerly called News International) and its surviving red top title The Sun. Brooks has been cleared of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office, including authorising payments of £40,000 to a Ministry of Defence Official, during her time as editor of The Sun between January 2004 and January 2012. 

And the clearing of other former News International staff of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in the days after Brooks' exit as chief executive (in July 2011) must also be a relief to the current leadership of News UK.

Andy Coulson resigned as News of the World editor in 2007 after the first two hacking scandal convictions.

The latest developments at the Old Bailey concern historic wrongdoing at a newspaper which no longer exists and for which News UK has already copiously apologised. 

But, sadly for those involved, this story is far from over. By my reckoning some 23 journalists charged with criminal offences over the last three years have yet to stand trial. And there are a further 13 arrested journalists still on police bail – including four from Trinity Mirror.

Yesterday was indeed a great day for one red top,  but I fear there is much pain yet to come for the red top press.



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Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette