Judge Rebukes Cameron For Comments On Coulson Conviction

The judge in the phone hacking trial has rebuked David Cameron for commenting on the conviction of Andy Coulson before the trial ended.

The prime minister has apologised for employing former News of the World editor Coulson as his media chief.

Mr Justice Saunders said his intervention was "unsatisfactory" and set a bad example to the media.

No 10 said the PM took the "best legal advice" before he spoke: widely taken as a reference to the Attorney General.

A spokesman for Attorney General Dominic Grieve later confirmed that the PM had consulted Mr Grieve "on his statement and his letter to the court before they were delivered".

The jury has been discharged after failing to reach verdicts on outstanding charges against Coulson.

Mr Justice Saunders will hear on Monday whether the Crown Prosecution Service wishes to launch a retrial.

In other developments:

  • Labour has asked a former senior civil servant to look at how Coulson was vetted before he started work at No 10, suggesting he did not receive the highest level of security clearance that was given to his predecessors in the role
  • Carole Middleton, the mother of the Duchess of Cambridge, was a victim of phone hacking, the BBC has learned
  • The sister of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, Gemma, urges politicians to "keep their promises" to hacking victims by ensuring permanent changes to the way the press operates
  • The hacking trial has cost £1.745m so far, the Crown Prosecution Service said. The figures cover the period up to 31 May

Mr Cameron appointed Coulson as his director of communications in 2007, six months after he had quit as editor when the paper's royal editor Clive Goodman was jailed for phone hacking.

Coulson maintained that he knew nothing about hacking at the paper while he was its editor but was forced to quit in 2011 after allegations about it intensified.

The prime minister is facing questions about why Coulson did not receive the same level of vetting as his predecessors when he followed Mr Cameron into Downing Street in 2010.

Mr Cameron says Coulson's vetting was handled by his top official, Sir Jeremy Heywood and the "correct procedures" had been followed.

But Labour has asked a former senior civil servant, Sir David Normington, to look at why the former tabloid editor was not given the highest level of "developed vetting".

The BBC's Robert Peston said Sir Jeremy had not given Coulson the highest security clearance when he started work at Number 10 to save money but later allowed him access to top secret material because the senior civil servant thought he was a "good egg".

(BBC)



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