Prosecutors will announce within days whether Andy Coulson will face a re-trial on charges he and former News of the World colleague Clive Goodman paid cash bribes to police officers guarding the Royal Family, the Old Bailey was told today.
Andrew Edis, QC, revealed the Crown Prosecution Service would make the announcement on Monday after the jury were unable to reach a verdict in Counts 2 and 3 of the seven counts at the phone hacking trial.
While editor of the News of the World Coulson was alleged to have conspired with royal editor Mr Goodman to commit misconduct in a public office by paying cash to Royal and Diplomatic Protection Squad for palace phone directories – which the prosecution alleged were used for phone hacking.
Discharging the jury shortly after midday, the judge, Mr Justice Saunders thanked the 11 jurors for their dedication and diligence during the eight month-long case.
They returned a guilty verdict on Coulson for conspiring to hack phones yesterday hacking – while indicating they were deadlocked on the bribery charges faced by the Prime Minister’s former director of communications.
In a note passed to Mr Justice Saunders shortly after resuming deliberations at 11am, the jury stated they would be unable to come to a decision.
The judge had allowed them to continue their deliberations after rejecting applications by counsel for Coulson and Goodman that prejudicial media coverage and criticism of Coulson by politicians – including David Cameron’s apology for hiring him – would taint their deliberations.
Timothy Langdale, QC, for Coulson, told the court it was “wholly unrealistic and quite hopeless for the jury to disregard the media coverage.” He added that the “ill-advised premature intervention of the Prime Minister… is impossible for the jury to ignore.”
Allowing the jury to continue, Mr Justice Saunders said that the acquittals of Rebekah Brooks – whose QC made repeated attempts to throw out the case against her on the grounds of unfair media coverage – showed the jury was capable of disregarding media coverage.
After discharging the jury little more than an hour later, the judge thanked them, saying: “The country owes you a debt of gratitude. You have given up eight months of your life for jury service despite the inconvenience.”
He said the case was an important one, saying about Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspaper group, News International: “The public were entitled to know who was criminally involved at senior level.”
In all the jury, who lost one of their number to illness during the trial, deliberated for 43 hours and 54 minutes.
Yesterday, on their eight day of deliberations, they unanimously convicted Coulson of conspiracy to hack phones between 2000 and 2006 while in charge of the News of he World, the country’s best-selling Sunday newspaper.
They returned not guilty verdicts on Rebekah Brooks on counts of conspiracy to hack phones, conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. They also returned not guilty verdicts on Stuart Kuttner, the News of the World’s former managing editor – for conspiring to hack phones – and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice charges against Mrs Brooks’ husband Charlie, PA Cheryl Carter and News International’s head of security, Mark Hanna.
Following the partial verdicts, the judge was left fuming by Mr Cameron’s decision to invite a TV crew into Downing Street for an interview in which he implicitly criticised Coulson for misleading him about the extent of crime at the News of the World.
He called for politicians and the media to exercise “restraint” in commenting on the case because the jury were continuing to consider the corruption charges.
With the jury now discharged, the full story of criminality at the News of the World and News International’s attempts to cover it up can be told.
Martin Hickman covered every day of the trial for Hacked Off. He is publishing a book by Peter Jukes on the case titled: Beyond Contempt – The Inside Story of the Phone Hacking Trial at hackingtrial.com