The charges against Brooks include conspiracy to illegally hack voicemails, and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Coulson, who went on to become communications officer for British prime minister David Cameron, had charges of conspiracy relating to phone hacking and alleged illegal payments to public officials.
The jury in the phone hacking trial delivered verdicts on most counts, including all charges faced by former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks and one against former NOTW editor Andy Coulson. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. shut down the tabloid in 2011 after the scandal erupted amid reports that staff at the paper had hacked into people’s voicemail messages to get scoops.
The jury found Brooks not guilty on all four counts she faced and found Coulson guilty on one charge of conspiracy to hack phones. The trial judge asked the jury to consider the fact that there were only 12 confirmed voicemail hacks while Brooks was editor and for none of them was there an email, a note or a witness that mentioned her name in connection with the practice. The jury has not yet returned a verdict on two additional charges against her and former royal editor Clive Goodman of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office by paying officials for royal phone directories.
Jury found Coulson, who also used to work as communications director for Prime Minister David Cameron, guilty on a charge of conspiring to hack phones while working at the tabloid that used to be part of the U.K. newspaper arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Coulson also used to serve as communications director for British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Coulson, 46, faced up to two years in prison, but his lawyer earlier this week argued that circumstances “do not justify the maximum penalty”. He argued that Coulson did not know that hacking was illegal. Defendant lawyer told the court that there was no evidence presented by the prosecution that Coulson knew about the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone or that he was aware of the tasking of Glenn Mulcaire in 2002 to gather information about the missing teenager.
Brooks was found not guilty of being part of a phone hacking conspiracy, one count of conspiracy to pay public officials. An argument arose on the charge Brooks was acquitted of: bribing public officials. Email evidence showed that on 11 occasions while editing the Sun, Brooks approved payments for stories that were sourced from a Ministry of Defence civil servant, Bettina Jordan-Barber. Legally, for Brooks to be guilty she had to know and agree that the cash was going to a civil servant. Not inquiring may be questionable but it was not a crime. The judge had instructed the jury to find her not guilty of another such charge and two counts of conspiracy to “pervert the course of justice.”
The jury found Brooks’ husband, Charlie, not guilty, former Brooks assistant Cheryl Carter not guilty and former News International security expert Mark Hanna not guilty. Stuart Kuttner, former managing editor of the tabloid, was also found not guilty.
Kuttner was found not guilty of conspiring to hack voicemail messages, while Charlie Brooks, Hanna and Carter were cleared of charges of conspiring to “pervert the course of justice.” They face no further charges.
The trial, which started in late October and ran for more than seven months, focused on charges of phone hacking, conspiring to “pervert the course of justice” and bribery against seven defendants. The jury ended up having 11 members after one juror was discharged earlier in the year.