Andy Coulson, formerly David Cameron's chief of communications, has been found guilty of phone hacking. He now faces a prison sentence, with the jury still deliberating two further charges.
The crimes were commited whilst Coulson was in charge of Rupert Murdoch's disgraced flagship, News of the World. Despite Coulson's continued protestation that he was completely clueless as to the content of the 'dark arts' practiced by journalists under his reign, a jury was less convinced. Coulson's fellow accused and former mistress, Rebekah Brooks, walked free, being found not guilty on all counts.
The verdict, returned after a year long trial, will cause serious embarrasment for prime minister David Cameron, who's decision to hire Coulson - after the editor had quit NotW as the phone hacking scandal first gathered pace - is looking increasingly suspect. As reported in The Guardian - the paper to first break the phone hacking stories:
"At the Leveson inquiry, in June 2012, Cameron said that when the Guardian first reported in 2009 that phone hacking at the News of the World may have gone farther than a single rogue reporter, the PM said Coulson had repeated an assurance made on taking the job with the Conservatives that he had known nothing about it.
Under oath, Cameron replied: "I was reliant on his word but I was also reliant on the fact that the Press Complaints Commission had accepted his word, the select committee had accepted his word, the police had accepted his word, the Crown Prosecution Service had accepted his word." But at that point in 2009, Coulson had not been interviewed by the police, CPS or a select committee on the subject: and the PCC never interviewed Coulson personally."
Cameron has now come out to issue a full apology, telling reporters
" I take full responsibility for employing Andy Coulson. I did so on the basis of undertakings I was given by him about phone hacking and those turned out not to be the case. I always said that if they turned out to be wrong that I would make a full and frank apology and I do that today. I am extremely sorry that I employed him. It was the wrong decision and I’m very clear about that.
I asked him questions about if he knew about phone hacking and he said that he didn’t and I accepted those assurances and I gave him the job. I would say that no one has made any complaints about the work that he did for me either as Leader of the Opposition or indeed here in Number 10 Downing Street, but knowing what I now know and knowing that those assurances weren’t right it was obviously wrong to employ him. I gave someone a second chance and it turned out to be a bad decision.”
This news caps a terrible day for Cameron - earlier he faced journalists asking questions about a leaked tape showing one of the PMs closest allies in Europe - Polish foreign minister and fellow ex Bullingdon Club member Radoslaw Sikorski - describing him as an 'incompetent' who has completely 'fucked up' his handling of Europe. Downing Street is currently remaining silent on the matter.