2014 year in reviewPhone hacking continued to feature prominently in media law news in 2014 with a long trial and a series of guilty pleas. The second half of the year saw a stream of trials relating to the payment of public officials by journalists – with more to begin in 2015.

The year saw the culmination of the long running Old Bailey Trial, with Andy Coulson found guilty of conspiring to hack phones, and Brooks cleared on all charges. 2014 also saw guilty pleas from former News of the World senior journalists Greg Miskiw, Neville Thurlbeck, James Weatherup, Ian Edmondson and Jules Stenson. We had more than 150 posts about the trial over a period of nearly 9 months.

The “Sun Six” trial began on 6 October 2014 at Kingston Crown Court. The defendants are former Sun managing editor Graham Dudman, Chris Pharo, Head of News; John Edwards, Picture Editor; Jamie Pyatt, the Thames Valley reporter; John Troup, a former district reporter; and Ben O’Driscoll, former deputy news editor – and now deputy news editor of the Daily Mail.  Inforrm had 36 posts about this trial over 3 months.

The defendants have already been cleared of the “general conspiracy charge” but continue to face further charges alleging specific unlawful payments to police, soldiers, prison officials and workers at Broadmoor hospital.  The trial will continue on 5 January 2015, when Judge Marks is scheduled to begin his summing up.

The phone hacking trials have received a wide range of online coverage, with Peter Jukes producing over 450,000 words of live tweets throughout the Old Bailey trial, and The Drum offering twice daily reports.  The Press Gazette has offered extensive coverage of the “Sun Six” trial but overall mainstream media coverage of the trials has not been consistent.

A brief reminder of some of the highlights from phone hacking and related matters over the past 12 months:

  • In February 2014 the prosecution for the Phone Hacking trial concluded and put before the jury some further documents, including an email in which Tony Blair offered to act as an “unofficial adviser” to News International.
  • On the 20 February 2014 Rebekah Brooks began giving evidence. The judge cleared her of one charge of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.
  • On 26 February 2014 the CPS announced a decision to charge eight individuals with offences of misconduct in public office.  These included Sun journalists Tom Wells, Neil Millard and Brandon Malinsky and former Mirror reporter Graham Brough.
  • On June 24 2014, the jury finds Andy Coulson guilty of phone hacking and clears Rebekah Brooks, Charlie Brooks, Stuart Kuttner, Cheryl Carter and Mark Hanna of all charges. The jury failed to reach verdicts on misconduct in public office charges against Coulson and Goodman.
  • In July 2014 Andrew Coulson was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. Greg Miskiw, former news editor of the News of World and Neville Thurlbeck, former Chief Reporter, were both sentenced to six months imprisonment. James Weatherup and Glenn Mulcaire were given suspended sentences. Only the Guardian and Independent gave the story front page coverage.
  • In July 2014 there were two more Operation Elveden convictions. A former customs officer, Reggie Nunkoo and a former police support worker, Rosemary Collier, pleaded guilty on 25 July 2014 to charges of misconduct in publication office.
  • On 30 July 2014 the CPS announced that former News of the World features editor Jules Stenson and ex-deputy editor Neil Wallis were to be charged with conspiring to illegally listen to voicemails between January 2003 and January 2007.
  • On Tuesday 6 August 2014,proceedings against Andy Coulson on three charges of perjury began in the High Court of Justiciary in Glasgow.
  • In August 2014 the first Operation Tuleta prosecution, of former Sun journalist Ben Ashford, took place at the Old Bailey. Mr Ashford was acquitted of charges arising out of his viewing messages on a stolen mobile phone.
  • On 21 August 2014  journalists Anthony France and Ryan Sabey appeared in Court on charges under Operation Elveden and former senior News of the World executives Neil Wallis and Jules Stenson appeared on charges of conspiring to illegally access voicemails.
  • In September 2014 Trinity Mirror announced that its subsidiary MGN Limited admitted liability to four individuals, including entertainer Shane Ritchie and BBC creative director Alan Yentob, who had sued over interception of voicemails.
  • On 3 October 2014 former News of the World News Editor,Ian Edmondson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to intercept voicemails between 3 October 2000 and 9 August 2006.
  • In October 2014 the jury in the “Operation Elveden” trial of Sun reporter Vince Soodin were unable to agree and he now faces a re-trial on a charge of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office.
  • On 6 October 2014 the trial of six senior staff and journalists from the Sun began at the Kingston Crown Court.
  • October 2014 saw another ‘Operation Elveden’ trial at the Old Bailey. The defendants were former prison officer, Scott Chapman, Daily Star crime reporter Tom Savage and a journalist from the News of the World. The court heard that Mr Chapman received over £40,000 from for information about murderer Jon Venables.
  • In November 2014 the “Sun Six” trial continued. The defence counsel claimed that News International was “shopping its own staff” to stave off corporate prosecution.
  • On 5 November 2014 a former News of the World journalist was found guilty of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office. Prison Officer Scott Chapman was also convicted along with his former partner Lynn Gaffney. Another journalist, 37-year-old Tom Savage was found not guilty of the same offence.
  • On 14 November 2014 Judge Peter Marks instructed the jury to formally find the “Sun Six” not guilty of the “general conspiracy charge”.
  • On 24 November 2014 the Sun ‘Mobile Phone’ Trial of Sun journalist Nick Parker began. Nick Parker was accused of accessing a phone which belonged to Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh and of helping a prison officer and police officer to commit misconduct in a public office.
  • On 26 November 2014 the HMRC Leak Trial at the Old Bailey involving Sun journalist Clodagh Hartley concluded with the acquittal of Hartley and her co-defendant.
  • On 9 December 2014 Sun reporter Nick Parker was convicted of handling stolen goods but acquitted of aiding and abetting misconduct in public office. He received a suspended sentence of 3 months.
  • On 15 December 2014 former News of the World features editor Jules Stenson pleaded guilty to phone hacking but former Deputy Editor Neil Wallis denied the offence.
  • On 18 December 2014, former Sunday Mirror investigations editor Graham Johnson received a suspended sentence of 2 months imprisonment after pleading guilty to phone hacking in 2001.

There was an Inforrm post on 31 December 2014 from James Doleman reflecting on the verdicts the Sun trials so far.

Tessa Evans is a journalist and researcher.  She tweets @tessadevans