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Dublin: 13 °C Sunday 21 December, 2014

Phone hacking jury dismissed after failing to reach a verdict on extra charges

Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick, who oversaw the investigation, said it was not “an attack on press freedom”.

Andy Coulson leaving court today.
Andy Coulson leaving court today.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

THE JURY IN the phone hacking trial in England has been discharged after failing to reach a verdict on two further charges made against Andy Coulson.

Yesterday, the former editor of the now defunct News of the World, was found guilty of phone hacking between October 2000 and August 2006.

Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive officer of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire News International, and her husband Charlie Brooks were cleared of all charges.

Judge John Saunders ended the trial after the jury failed to agree or whether or not Coulson and the News of the World’s former royal editor Clive Goodman were guilty of paying police officers for royal phone directories.

Prosecutors will announce next week whether they are seeking a retrial.

Andy Coulson resigned as editor of the News of the World in 2007 after a reporter was convicted for phone hacking. He went on to work as head of communications for British Prime Minister David Cameron, before resigning in early 2011 as the phone hacking scandal continued.

The controversy led to the  Leveson inquiry, a public investigation into the ethics and practices of the British press.

The trial began eight months ago and focused on journalists hacking into the voicemails of celebrities and victims of crime, most notably murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

The investigation identified 5,500 victims, 3,500 of whom have been contacted to date. The Metropolitan Police said it was unlikely this figure would rise as “all reasonable efforts to contact the victims have been completed”.

‘Complex and challenging’

Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick, who oversaw the investigation, said it had been “complex and challenging”.

Throughout the investigation we have done our best to follow the evidence, without fear or favour. We were conscious of the sensitivities and legal complexities of investigating a national newspaper containing confidential journalistic material.

This investigation has never been about an attack on press freedom but one to establish whether any criminal offences had been committed, to establish who was responsible for committing them and to bring them to justice. The victims deserved no less.

She added that those found not guilty had been “exonerated after a thorough police investigation and fair trial”.

Guilty

Five people had pleaded guilty to hacking phones in June and July 2012: Glen Mulcaire, Neville Thurlbeck, Greg Miskew, James Weatherup and Daniel Evans.

Stuart Kuttner was found not guilty of hacking between October 2000 and August 2006. Cheryl Carter was cleared of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in July 2011.

In a statement issued this afternoon, the Met said that the investigation, which had been dubbed Operation Weeting, “required an unprecedented level of resources”.

The scale of the material that needed to be searched included millions of emails, tens of thousands of documents, complex communications data and trails of financial transactions that required painstaking analysis as evidence gradually emerged.

The Met noted that “the need to build in protections for legal professional privilege and non-relevant confidential journalistic material has also had a significant impact upon the pace of these investigations”.

The statement added that the police do not have the power to “search and seize confidential journalistic material unless an associated arrest takes place”.

Additional reporting by Christine Bohan

Read: Andy Coulson found guilty but Rebekah Brooks cleared at phone hacking trial

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