By Martin Hickman
Andy Coulson, former award-winning editor of the News of the World, is to face a re-trial over allegations he approved cash bribes to “palace cops” to obtain copies of phone directories for the Royal Family, the Old Bailey heard today.
Jurors at the phone hacking trial were last week unable to reach verdicts on two counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office against Coulson and the paper’s formeer royal editor, Clive Goodman.
At a pre-sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey, Andrew Edis, QC, announced that the Crown Prosecution Service would press ahead with a retrial of those two charges. Prosecutors, he added, would ask for Coulson’s conviction for phone hacking to be admitted as part of the evidence.
If a judge decides the jury should not hear about that convictions, prosecutors expect defence lawyers for Coulson and Goodman to apply to throw out the charges on the basis that media coverage of Coulson’s conviction means that neither could have a fair trial.
Mr Edis made the announcement at Court 12 of the Old Bailey shortly before summarising the case against the five News of the World journalists who have been convicted of phone hacking charges.
In the dock alongside Coulson were three former news editors, Greg Miskiw, Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to hack voicemails last summer, and private detective Glenn Mulcaire – who pleaded guilty to three substantive counts of phone hacking, including hacking Milly Dowler last March.
In a robust statement to the judge Mr Justice John Saunders, Mr Edis said:
• The News of the World was a “thoroughly criminal enterprise”
• Phone hacking was carried out on an “industrial scale”, approved of and participated in by senior managers up to the editor
• Voicemails were intercepted by the news and features departments, meaning there were two separate criminal conspiracies to hack phones at the NoW
• Phone hacking began at the News of the World before private detective Glenn Mulcaire was awarded an annual contract in September 2001
• Victims included Cabinet Ministers and members of the Royal Family and read like “Who’s Who?” of British society.
Mr Edis told the Old Bailey he would spare those victims from having fresh assault on their privacy by detailing in court what had happened to them.
But, asking for the five hackers to pay £700,000 prosecution costs, he said: “What happened was the repeated invasion of privacy for stories, that had the capacity to do serious harm to the victims.”
Painting a picture of a tabloid mired in “morally wicked intrusion,” he said that on learning Milly Dowler might be working in the Midlands, the News of the World’s hackers waited at least 24 hours before informing police of her believed whereabouts.
The prosecutor told the court: “If she had been alive, which she wasn’t, during that 24 hours she would have been exposed to avoidable danger.”
Mr Edis said Miskiw was the most involved in hacking, with 1,500 taskings of Mulcaire, followed by Thurlbeck with 261 and Weatherup, who had 137 and was “the least implicated,” Mr Edis said.
He told Mr Justice Saunders – who will sentence the five on Friday – that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 carried a maximum jail term of two years.
Lawyers for the five will give their mitigation this afternoon.