Ex-News International CEO Rebekah Brooks on Tuesday cleared of all charges but her former colleague Andy Coulson was found guilty of phone hacking, bringing a dramatic end to the eight-month trial involving Rupert Murdoch’s media empire in the UK.
Coulson, 46, who edited the now defunct News of the World (NoW) tabloid before becoming Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokesperson, faces jail after the jury unanimously returned a guilty verdict against him at the Old Bailey court here.
Brooks, 46, was found not guilty of four charges spanning an 11-year period at News International, including during her editorship of the NoW and The Sun.
Brooks has been cleared by a jury of four counts including plotting to hack phones, conspiring to pervert the course of justice, and two counts of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office.
The nearly eight-month trial was triggered by revelations that for years the NoW used illegal eavesdropping to get stories, listened the voicemails of celebrities, politicians and even crime victims.
Employees of the newspaper were accused of engaging in phone hacking, police bribery, and exercising improper influence in the pursuit of publishing stories.
The 168-year-old NoW shut down in disgrace in July 2011 amid a public outcry.
There were dramatic scenes outside the court on Tuesday as the flame-haired Brooks and her husband, Charlie – a racehorse trainer – who was also cleared, left the court.
Brooks appeared to mouth “thank you” to the jury and also held the hand of her former personal assistant Cheryl Carter, who looked close to tears.
Coulson stood emotionless as he absorbed the news. The verdict raises pressure on Cameron, who hired him as director of communications only a few weeks after he quit NoW.
The jury, which has been considering verdicts since June 11, is still contemplating further charges against Coulson and former NoW royal editor Clive Goodman of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office by paying police officers for two royal directories.
The scandal sent tremors across Britain’s political elite.
Prime Minister Cameron, known to be close to Murdoch and Brooks, was forced to order a public inquiry into press ethics in the immediate aftermath of the raging row.