Skip to main content

Andy Coulson found guilty in phone hacking trial; Rebekah Brooks cleared

By Peter Wilkinson and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 2:18 PM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson both had denied all the charges against them in the phone hacking trial.
Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson both had denied all the charges against them in the phone hacking trial.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Jurors in phone hacking trial retire for the night, to return Wednesday morning
  • Andy Coulson found guilty of conspiracy to hack phones; jury still considering other charges
  • Former newspaper chief Rebekah Brooks is cleared of all charges
  • "I am extremely sorry that I employed him," PM David Cameron says of ex-aide Coulson

London (CNN) -- Former newspaper editor and ex-Downing Street communications chief Andy Coulson was found guilty Tuesday of conspiracy to hack phones in what is widely seen as an embarrassment for British Prime Minister David Cameron.

But another of Rupert Murdoch's former newspaper chiefs, Rebekah Brooks, was unanimously cleared of all charges at the Old Bailey court in London after an eight-month trial, her lawyer said.

Brooks was overcome by emotion in the courtroom as the verdicts were read out, the UK's Press Association news agency said. She left the Old Bailey accompanied by her husband, Charlie Brooks, but did not stop to speak to the waiting media.

The jury went home Tuesday night without coming to a decision on charges of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office against Coulson and former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman.

Jurors will return at 11 a.m. (6 a.m. ET) Wednesday to resume deliberations.

Did Sienna Miller and '007' have a fling?
Details of royal messages revealed
Prosecutors: Defendants having an affair
Rebekah Brooks' brief court appearance

Tuesday's verdicts came three years after it was revealed that journalists on News of the World hacked the phone of then-missing teenager Milly Dowler in 2002, raising hopes that she was alive and checking messages, when in fact she had been murdered.

The resulting public and political outrage led to the closure of the 168-year-old paper and the setting up of a public inquiry to examine journalistic ethics.

At the time the schoolgirl's voice mail was intercepted, Brooks was editor of Britain's top-selling News of the World, and Coulson was her deputy. After Coulson succeeded her as editor, Brooks edited The Sun newspaper, and she later became chief executive of the parent company, News International.

Coulson resigned as News of the World editor in 2007 after its then-royal editor, Goodman, and a private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, were jailed for hacking into voice-mail messages left for royal aides.

Coulson denied any wrongdoing and later became Cameron's director of communications. The former editor resigned from his Downing Street position in 2011 as coverage of the phone hacking scandal broadened.

Cameron: Hiring Coulson 'wrong decision'

Cameron, who has faced criticism for hiring Coulson, gave what he called a "full and frank apology" Tuesday in a statement to the media, saying he took "full responsibility" for his former aide's recruitment.

The Prime Minister said he had decided to give the former editor "a second chance" on the basis of promises Coulson had given that he did not know about phone hacking.

"I am extremely sorry that I employed him, it was the wrong decision, and I am very clear about that," Cameron said.

He added that there had been no complaints about the work Coulson did for him either at Downing Street or beforehand when Cameron was leader of the opposition.

Coulson's guilty verdict on the charge of conspiring to hack phones "raises important questions about David Cameron's judgment in employing him," said Matthew Ashton, an expert in politics and the media at Nottingham Trent University.

"In particular what warnings did he receive beforehand, and how rigorous was the vetting and interview process?

"Regardless of the verdicts, this trial has raised important questions about the relationship between the political, economic and media elites in the UK."

Brooks' husband, aide also cleared

Brooks resigned as News International CEO in July 2011 amid public anger over hacking allegations, and police arrested her the following week.

Brooks and Coulson were charged in 2012, together with five other journalists, with conspiracy to intercept the voice mails of high-profile figures in Britain. All seven denied wrongdoing.

Brooks also faced, along with her husband and her former personal assistant, Cheryl Carter, two charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. All three were cleared of those charges, the Press Association reported.

Retired managing editor Stuart Kuttner, who was cleared of conspiracy to hack phones, thanked his legal team in a statement outside court.

"The diligence, the dedication and perhaps, above all, the passion of my lawyers over the past three years has been extraordinary, most remarkable -- and it is to them that I owe a huge and enduring thanks for the result, the unanimous verdict of the jury today."

News UK, the UK newspaper publishing arm of Murdoch's News Corp., said in a statement: "We said long ago, and repeat today, that wrongdoing occurred, and we apologized for it. We have been paying compensation to those affected and have cooperated with investigations."

The publisher said it was making changes to ensure this kind of wrongdoing did not recur and that it supported a new UK press watchdog expected to start work later this year.

"Out of respect for the fact that further legal proceedings will occur, we will have no further comment at this time," the statement added.

Clandestine affair

During the trial, the jury heard how a private detective working for the tabloid allegedly made more than 6,000 hacking calls in a two-year period. The Metropolitan Police estimate there were more than 1,000 victims, including royalty, politicians and celebrities. The phone of Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge and wife of Prince William, was hacked 155 times, it was revealed at the trial.

In November, prosecutors alleged that Coulson had a clandestine affair with Brooks from 1998-2004, which they argued showed the pair's level of trust.

Referring to a letter she had written to Coulson and that was produced in court, Brooks said: "Andy and I were incredibly close at the time. He was my best friend. I think that comes across." She denied there had been a long-standing affair but acknowledged there had been periods of physical intimacy.

The BBC and Guardian newspaper reported that when Coulson testified in April -- with his wife watching from the public gallery -- he said the affair "shouldn't have happened."

But he denied that it meant he and Brooks had shared sensitive stories, the outlets said.

In her defense, Brooks denied in court that she had ever approved phone hacking while she was News of the World editor. Asked about the practice, Brooks said: "No desk editor, no journalist ever came to me and said, 'We're working on such and such story, and we need to access their voice mails.' "

She told the court she would have felt it was "a serious breach of somebody's privacy, especially if you did not have an overwhelming public interest," and of the newspaper industry's code of conduct.

Get up to speed on UK phone hacking scandal

7 amazing things we learned during the hacking trial

CNN's Lindsay Isaac contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:23 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
updated 6:32 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
A 9-year-old girl learning to fire a submachine gun accidentally killed her instructor at a shooting range, according to Arizona authorities.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
ISIS has made surprise gains in Iraq and Syria in recent months, but may begin to suffer setbacks on the battlefield.
updated 2:44 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
The fear of Russian invasion is receding but peace may still be tricky to find.
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Was a police officer justified in shooting and killing Michael Brown?
updated 4:15 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Don't like the country you live in? Meet the people who created their own "micronations."
updated 10:12 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
The signs exist that indicate U.S. airstrikes into Syria are on the way.
updated 7:18 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
The mother of a hostage freed after two years captivity says it's not time to party.
updated 5:46 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
updated 2:00 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
"I just love it when I get milk-to-dark converts," says Kerrin Rousset, before she leads a small cocoa-hungry crowd through Zurich's Old Town.
ADVERTISEMENT