Phone hacking trial – Coulson’s conviction causes a crisis for David Cameron

Simon Basketter

David Cameron and the Tories saw their cover-up of the hacking scandal come back to haunt them this week.

Former Tory spin doctor and News of the World (NotW) editor Andy Coulson was found guilty of conspiring to hack phones with others between 2000 and 2006.

Coulson was accused of two counts of conspiring with former NotW royal editor Clive Goodman to commit misconduct in a public office by paying police officers for two royal directories.

The jury had not reached a verdict on those charges as Socialist Worker went to press.

Former News International boss Rebekah Brooks was cleared of all charges by the jury.

Phone hacking went on at an industrial scale, the court was told. It wasn’t just celebrities.

Trade unionists and ordinary people had their phones hacked too. But this is not just about bad journalism.

The scandal has revealed the unholy alliance between the police, the media and the political establishment. And it goes to the very top.

The most prominent of the accused were David Cameron’s close friends.


Coulson resigned from NotW in January 2007 over phone hacking and started work for the Tories in July that year.

He received cash payments from the paper’s publisher until the end of 2007.

Cameron repeatedly claimed that he had no knowledge of these payments to Coulson while he was in their employment.

Coulson told the Leveson inquiry that he may have had “unsupervised access” to material designated top secret or above.

Cameron, like many involved in the hacking scandal, suffered a worrying outbreak of amnesia. He said he couldn’t remember when he was made aware of the hacking allegations relating to Coulson.

During 2003 over £100,000 in bribes was handed over to police officers. It is just one grubby fact among many that shine a dim light on the scandal.

The story goes beyond the Chipping Norton set. It goes further than cash-filled brown envelopes.

Coulson’s conviction shows that one member of the rotten elite has been caught out. But the network of corruption at the top remains in place.

Hacking – the charges

Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and others linked to the News of the Word were accused of a string of offences.

They related to phone hacking, corruption and perversion of the course of justice.

Brooks was found not guilty on four charges including a conspiracy to hack phones.

She was also found not guilty of sanctioning corrupt payments to a Ministry of Defence official for stories.

She was found not guilty of a third charge of hiding evidence from police investigating phone hacking in July 2011. Her husband Charlie Brooks and head of security at News International Mark Hanna were also found not guilty of this charge.

Brooks was found not guilty of removing seven boxes of material from News International. Her secretary Cheryl Carter was also found not guilty of this charge.

Stuart Kuttner, managing editor was found not guilty of conspiring to hack phones.

Who lied in Tommy Sheridan trial?

Andy Coulson faces another court case over perjury.

He is accused of lying during the perjury trial of Scottish socialist politician Tommy Sheridan in 2010.

Coulson, then spin doctor for David Cameron, gave two days of evidence during Tommy’s trial.

Coulson denied any knowledge of phone hacking or of a plot by the News of the World, which he edited, to discredit Tommy for his political views.

Coulson has now been convicted of phone hacking.

Scottish News of the World editor Bob Bird told the court that key emails the defence requested had been “lost in India”.

Tommy was jailed for three years. Bird then had to apologise when it was revealed the emails had been stored in a server at News International all along.

Coulson hired hacking detective

Private detective Daniel Morgan was murdered in 1987. Jonathan Rees is his former business partner. Rees was acquitted of Daniel’s murder.

Morgan carried out investigations for Southern Investigations.

This agency ran a number of dodgy information gathering activities for various newspapers–especially the News of the World (NotW).

Morgan was murdered a week after he revealed that he was taking allegations of police corruption to the NotW.

Andy Coulson, when editing the NotW, repeatedly hired Rees.

He rehired Rees in 2005–despite the fact that Rees had served a seven-year sentence for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Coulson repeatedly argued that he knew nothing about the case. But he said that about phone hacking too.

Chipping Norton set crumbles

Rebekah Brooks and her husband Charlie live in a £1 million mansion barely a mile away from the Camerons. The prime minister was a guest at their wedding.

There he was seen giving “exuberant high-fives” to PR mogul Matthew Freud–another close friend of his and the group.

Freud’s firm, Freud Communications, has pocketed hundreds of thousands of pounds from the coalition. Freud just happens to be married to Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth.

Among the observers in court was Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson. Brooks revealed Cameron signed off phone texts to her with the message “LOL”, thinking it meant “lots of love”.

George Osborne was not invited to go riding on police horses with Brooks and Cameron. But he did entertain Rebekah Brooks at his country house.

Another regular guest was Andy Coulson.

David’s dinners

David Cameron shared 26 dinners and other engagements with News International executives in just one year while Coulson was working for him.

In 2008 David Cameron accepted free flights from Rupert Murdoch to hold private talks and parties on his yacht.

Earlier this month Cameron was pictured holding up a copy of the Sun– as were Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband.

Murdoch empire worth billions

The Murdoch empire continues despite the scandal.

News Corp, which includes newspapers, publishing and an educational business, has a market value of nearly £5.88 billion pounds.

Fox, with its cable TV and film assets, is worth £45 billion. Rupert Murdoch is still in charge of the companies.

Reprinted with permission