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UK hacking: Brooks cleared, Coulson guilty

Rebekah Brooks has been found not guilty of being part of an illegal conspiracy to hack into phones and make illegal payments. But her successor Andy Coulson was found guilty of phone hacking.

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Police investigating the phone hacking scandal in Britain were left feeling “absolutely shattered” by Tuesday’s verdicts in the trial of former News International executives Rebekah Brooks and Stuart Kuttner.

Brooks and Kuttner were found not guilty on charges of conspiracy to intercept voicemails.

Operation Weeting detectives were summoned to Scotland Yard to assess the impact of the verdicts on other related, ongoing investigations, Fairfax Media understands. And tabloid journalists on bail as prosecutors weigh potential charges against them were feeling more confident they may not end up facing trial.

Former News Corp executive Rebekah Brooks leaving the Old Bailey with her husband Charlie after being cleared of all charges related to phone hacking.

Former News Corp executive Rebekah Brooks leaving the Old Bailey with her husband Charlie after being cleared of all charges related to phone hacking. Photo: Getty/John Phillips

However one journalist, who knew several of those who face possible charges, said it was a “mixed” feeling because their names were still “toxic” on Fleet Street, and they were frustrated and angry that they were being kept waiting to hear if they would be charged.

A British journalist, with inside knowledge of News International, who tweets under the name "Tabloid Troll” – and who did not want to be identified when Fairfax Media spoke with him – said the result was a disaster for the Crown Prosecution Service, after a trial that cost £30 million ($54 million) had so far yielded just one guilty verdict.

Apart from the jury’s guilty verdict for former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, on a phone hacking conspiracy charge, others have already pleaded guilty: NotW chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, investigations editor Greg Miskiw and assistant news editor James Weatherup, along with investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

Andy Coulson, former director of communications for British Prime Minister David Cameron, leaves the Old Bailey on Tuesday. His conviction is the only successful guilty verdict of the $54 million Operation Weeting.

Andy Coulson, former director of communications for British Prime Minister David Cameron, leaves the Old Bailey on Tuesday. His conviction is the only successful guilty verdict of the $54 million Operation Weeting. Photo: Getty

The trial focused on what other senior editors knew about what was happening under their watch.

But a lot of lives of ordinary reporters had been ruined by Operation Weeting, the journalist said. Former NotW journalists could not find new employment and some had now been held on bail, pending any charge, for up to 30 months.

“We always believed it was a very small number of people involved in [phone hacking] despite what others were trying to say,” the journalist said.

He said the most significant not guilty verdict for others awaiting possible charges was that of Stuart Kuttner, who had been charged with conspiracy to intercept voicemails on the basis that he had authorised payments to others who had been hacking phones.

This suggested that simply authorising payments would not be enough to land someone in jail, the journalist said.

He also said the Crown Prosecution Service would be less confident about relying on the testimony of "supergrass" Dan Evans, a former NotW reporter who had confessed to hacking hundreds of phones and who had claimed his superiors were aware of the fact.

Fairfax asked the Crown Prosecution Service to comment on the status of outstanding Operation Weeting cases, but they had not responded at the time of writing.

The jury in the phone hacking trial did not reach a verdict on Tuesday on two remaining charges facing Andy Coulson and Clive Goodman, relating to alleged payments to police officers for internal royal phone books.

The jury indicated they would not be able to reach a unanimous decision on the two counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office, and the judge said he would accept a majority verdict of 10 of the remaining 11 jurors.