Hacking trial verdicts: Andy Coulson guilty of conspiracy to hack phones, Rebekah Brooks cleared of all charges - Press Gazette

Hacking trial verdicts: Andy Coulson guilty of conspiracy to hack phones, Rebekah Brooks cleared of all charges

Former No 10 spin doctor Andy Coulson has been found guilty of plotting to hack phones while he was editor of the News of the World.

Coulson, who was forced to resign as Prime Minister David Cameron's director of communications over the scandal, now faces the possibility of jail following the high-profile trial at the Old Bailey.

But the jury of eight women and three men cleared ex-News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks of all charges.

Retired managing editor Stuart Kuttner (pictured below) was also cleared of being part of a conspiracy dating back to 2000 and spanning six years.

Brooks's former personal assistant Cheryl Carter was cleared of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Brooks's husband Charlie and former NI director of security Mark Hanna were also cleared of perverting the course of justice.

The jury is still considering further charges against Coulson and former NotW royal editor Clive Goodman of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office by paying police officers for two royal directories.

Mrs Brooks appeared to try to keep her emotions in check when the first of the not guilty verdicts was announced, simply nodding towards the jury with a slight smile.

Dressed in a white blouse, she appeared to hold the hand of her former personal assistant Cheryl Carter as she was cleared.

The pair looked at each other in the dock after the not guilty verdict against Ms Carter was given to the court.

On her other side was her husband Charlie, who stood with his hands folded in front of him as he was cleared. His wife brushed him comfortingly as the verdict was given, while he stood staring straight ahead.

Coulson, dressed in a dark suit, showed no immediate reaction to the guilty verdict, standing with his hands behind his back and clenching his jaw while looking forward.

Cameron is expected to make a "profound apology" following Coulson's conviction.

Coulson was recruited by George Osborne to head up the Tory media operation within months of resigning as News of the World editor in January 2007.

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

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said Cameron "entirely" stood by his words to parliament in July 2011, when he told MPs: "I have said very clearly that if it turns out Andy Coulson knew about the hacking at the News of the World he will not only have lied to me but he will have lied to the police, to a select committee, to the Press Complaints Commission and, of course, perjured himself in a court of law."

Today Cameron gave a "full and frank apology" for employing Andy Coulson at 10 Downing Street, saying: "I'm extremely sorry that I employed him. It was the wrong decision and I am very clear about that."

"No-one has made any complaints about the work that he did for me..but knowing what I know now it was wrong to employ him. I gave someone a second chance and it turned out to be a bad decision."

Rebekah and Charlie Brooks left the Old Bailey just before 12.45pm.

Greeted by a throng of media, the couple left court holding hands and made no comment as they got into a waiting black cab.

The partial verdicts were delivered on the jury's eighth day of deliberations and the 138th day of the trial.

Ex-No 10 spin doctor Coulson, 46, of Charing, Kent; had denied all the charges as had Goodman, 56, of Addlestone, Surrey.

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.

Carter, 50, of Chelmsford, Essex, was cleared of perverting the course of justice by removing seven boxes from the NI archive just days before she was arrested in 2011.

Racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks, 52, of Churchill, Oxfordshire, and Hanna, 51, were cleared of perverting the course of justice around the time of police searches in July 2011.

The prosecution had alleged that because of the the sheer scale of phone-hacking at the NoW, Brooks, Coulson and Kuttner must have known what was going on while they were in charge.

After Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire were convicted of phone-hacking in 2006, all three bosses were alleged to have been involved in a cover up to keep the full extent of phone hacking secret.

Three more senior ex-NotW journalists have since admitted involvement in tasking the private detective – news editor James Weatherup, chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, and assistant editor Greg Miskiw.

And reporter Dan Evans, who was caught hacking the phone of designer Kelly Hoppen in 2009, became a star witness by implicating 10 former colleagues, including Coulson.

It was Brooks who was the editor when Mulcaire got his first annual contract with the paper for £92,000 in 2001.

She was still in charge in 2002 when Mulcaire hacked the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler – an act which led to the eventual downfall of the Sunday tabloid.

Even though she was on holiday in Dubai at the time, the prosecution said her on-off love affair with her deputy Coulson meant they shared such confidences.

Kuttner was also implicated by the fact he told Surrey Police about the Milly voicemail himself, the prosecution alleged.

After Coulson took over the editorship in 2003 and Brooks went to the Sun, hacking really took off at the NoW, the court heard.

Goodman, 56, said it was going on on an "industrial scale", while Evans told jurors even the "office cat" knew.

A host of politicians, sports people, celebrities, and members of the royal family were targeted by NotW staff and Mulcaire.

The then Kate Middleton was hacked 155 times, Prince William was hacked 35 times and Prince Harry nine times.

Goodman claimed his former boss had personally sanctioned his Alexander Project – a separate £500 a week deal with Mulcaire to target three royal aides between autumn 2005 and spring 2006.

And Evans said he showed Coulson a voicemail from the actress Sienna Miller to Bond star Daniel Craig indicating an affair.

An email about Calum Best in which Coulson wrote "do his phone" was, the prosecution said, a direct hacking order from the boss, although there was no firm evidence that the footballer's son was a victim.

Coulson admitted he knew about a hacked voicemail from former home secretary David Blunkett declaring his love for Spectator publisher Kimberly Quinn in August 2004 – but insisted that was the only one.

The prosecution said phone records and the fact the Sun named Ms Quinn the day after the NotW published its exclusive meant Brooks knew too.

Kuttner was also implicated in December 2004 when he rang journalist Simon Hoggart to put it to him that he was having an affair with Ms Quinn as well, the court heard.

Despite bosses knowing about the Milly and Blunkett phone hacks, they neither investigated nor disciplined anyone involved but instead agreed for it to continue, the prosecution asserted.

But Brooks, Kuttner and Coulson all denied they were involved in the hacking conspiracy.

Brooks said she was unaware of Mulcaire and what he was doing.

The only published story proved to come from hacking while she was editor came from the Milly voicemail and she was "shocked" to find out about it in 2011.

Coulson said he did not know about Mulcaire either and assumed Thurlbeck had hacked Ms Quinn himself.

His first reaction was to ban his chief reporter from investigating the story any further, but he was later persuaded it was justified in the public interest – a decision he admitted was a mistake.

Kuttner, of Woodford, Green, Essex, said he was an old fashioned journalist who believed in getting stories through traditional means.

The 74-year-old Fleet Street veteran signed off payments to sources and planned annual budgets at the NotW but said he did not cook the books to hide Mulcaire's annual salary which rose to £105,000.

Coulson is also accused of conspiring with Goodman to commit misconduct in a public office.

Emails were shown to the court in which Goodman asked Coulson to authorise paying police officers for two royal directories.

But Goodman said he was prone to exaggerate his sources' importance and Coulson said he never actually believed they were public officials.

The sources have never been identified.

Brooks faced a similar charge by agreeing to pay a Sun journalist's "number one military contact" on 11 occasions while editor of the daily paper.

She denied knowing it was a public official and said she trusted the reporter concerned.

When the hacking scandal re-emerged in July 2011, Brooks was accused of trying to hide or destroy evidence from police.

The ex-News International (NI) chief executive was charged with conspiring with her personal assistant Cheryl Carter to pervert the course of justice.

Carter had removed seven boxes marked as Brooks's notebooks from the NI archive on the day the closure of the NoW was announced.

But she said they mainly contained her notebooks which she binned and anything belonging to her boss was returned to the office.

Around the time of her arrest on 17 July 2011, the prosecution said there was an attempt by Brooks, her husband and Hanna to pervert the course of justice.

Bags of property were found stashed in the underground car park of the Brooks's London flat by a cleaner and handed to police.

But Brooks said the assorted items, which included lesbian porn DVDs as well as computer equipment, were all his and had nothing to do with the case.

There were initially 11 accused in the current case.  Three individuals have already pleaded guilty and one defendant has been deemed medically unfit to continue.

The trial began on 28 October 2013 with 17 press places in Court 12 of the Old Bailey and a further 53 journalists from around the world following proceedings via video link in an annexe.

Former News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson (below left and centre) were accused of conspiring with former NoW head of news Ian Edmondson, former managing editor Stuart Kuttner (below right) and others to illegally access voicemails between 3 October 2000 and 9 August 2006.

On 12 December 2013, Ian Edmondson (below) was judged medically unfit to continue to stand trial. The judge ruled that the case against him would be heard by another jury at a new trial in  the future.

Coulson and former royal editor Clive Goodman (below) were also charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office between August 2002 and January 2003 and between 31 January and 3 June 2005.

Rebekah Brooks was also charged with conspiring  to commit misconduct in public office during her time as editor of The Sun – between January 2004 and Janauary 2012, and between February 2006 and October 2008. It is alleged she authorised payments of £40,000 to a Ministry of Defence official.

Brooks was charged, along with her former personal assistant Cheryl Carter (below), 49, of conspiring to pervert the course of justice between 6 and 9 July 2011 by removing seven boxes of material from the News International archive.

It is also alleged that Brooks, her husband Charlie (below left) and former head of security at News International Mark Hanna (below) conspired between 15 and 19 July 2011 to pervert the course of justice by concealing documents, computers and other equipment from police.

Former News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck (below left) and former newsdesk journalists on the paper Greg Miskew (below centre) and James Weatherup (below right) have all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to intercept voicemails.

Former New of the World journlist Dan Evans, who gave evidence against colleagues, also pleaded guilty to plotting to hack phones.

Former private investigator for the News of the World Glenn Mulcaire (pictured below) has pleaded to conspiracy to unlawfully intercepting mobile phone voicemail messages in November 2006 and three further counts of conspiracy to commit phone-hacking.

All pictures from Reuters.

The charges at  a glance:

Conspiracy to hack phones:

Rebekah Brooks – not guilty

Andy Coulson – guilty

Stuart Kuttner – not guilty

Ian Edmondson – medically unfit, will be tried at later date

James Weatherup – pleaded guilty

Neville Thurlbeck – pleaded guilty

Glenn Mulcaire – pleaded guilty

Dan Evans – pleaded guilty

Conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office (payments to public officials):

Rebekah Brooks – not guilty

Andy Coulson

Clive Goodman

Conspiracy to pervert the course of justice (removal of seven boxes from News International Archive):

Rebekah Brooks – not guilty

Cheryl Carter – not guilty

Conspiracy to pervert the course of justice (concealing computers and documents from police):

Charlie Brooks – not guilty

Rebekah Brooks – not guilty

Mark Hanna – not guilty



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