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A Very Peculiar Verdict

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Posted by Gary Herman

Murdoch and Brooks - best of friendsFormer News of the World editor and News International chief executive, Rebekah Brooks (pictured left with Rupert Murdoch), has been cleared of all charges in the phone-hacking trial that took the lid off the news-gathering practices of Rupert Murdoch's empire.

In what seems to be a perverse decision in the light of Brooks' acquital, her former colleague, deputy and lover, Andy Coulson, has been found guilty of one charge of conspiring to hack phones. Coulson was previously British Prime Minister David Cameron's communications chief and spin-doctor. Appointing Coulson, said Cameron in response to the verdict, “turned out to be a bad decision". Being best buddies with Brooks, however, shows only that Cameron's judgement can be flawless at times.

News UK, the UK newspaper operation of Murdoch's News Corp global enterprise, admitted wrongdoing in a statement following the verdict. “We said long ago, and repeat today, that wrongdoing occurred, and we apologised for it," said the statement. “We have been paying compensation to those affected and have cooperated with investigations. We made changes in the way we do business to help ensure wrongdoing like this does not occur again."

However, Brooks and Coulson denied any involvement in phone hacking while working at the Murdoch titles, the News of the World and the Sun, and - in the case of Brooks, at least - the jury saw fit to accept her plea.

Neither Brooks nor Coulson has yet made a statement, but reports from inside the Old Bailey said that Brooks received the not-guilty verdict with great relief. According to witnesses, she seemed to mouth a “thank you" to the 11-member jury. Coulson showed little emotion.

Brooks' husband Charles, her former secretary Cheryl Carter, and News International security chief Mark Hanna were all acquitted of charges relating to attempts to hide evidence from the police. Stuart Kuttner, formerly managing editor of News of the World, was found not guilty of phone hacking.

Two further charges against Coulson and former royal editor Clive Goodman are still pending, but the picture that emerges is that the jury decided that Coulson and a number of his staff and contractors (five of whom entered guilty pleas at the outset of the trial)  ran the phone hacking operation without the knowledge or connivance of senior executives or intimate friends.

Those with a taste for tales of true adventure will surely be awaiting the statements from Brooks, Coulson and Kuttner with eager anticipation.

See Granville Williams' blog piece, More Questions than Verdicts, for analysis.

The verdicts:
Andy Coulson: guilty of conspiracy to hack voicemails
Rebekah Brooks: not guilty of conspiracy to hack voicemails, two counts of conspiracy to pay public officials and two counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice
Stuart Kuttner: not guilty of conspiracy to hack voicemails
Cheryl Carter, Charlie Brooks and Mark Hanna: not guilty of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice

The jury will return on 25 June to consider charges of misconduct in public office against Andy Coulson and Clive Goodman.

See Granville Williams' blog piece, More Questions than Verdicts, for analysis.

DATELINE: 27 June, 2014


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A Very Peculiar Verdict

The verdicts today confirm that there was a failure of corporate governance at News International. Relying on the industry to regulate itself failed. That is why we had the Leveson enquiry and it is why Rupert Murdoch must now commit fully to Lord Leveson’s recommendations. News UK must now comply with what the judge set out for a system of press regulation that is capable of restoring public confidence.

Posted by: Jonathan Hardy, CPBF: 25 Jun, 2014 00:00:00

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