A jury has acquitted Rebekah Brooks, one of Rupert Murdoch’s former top executives, of all charges in the British phone hacking scandal, and found that Andy Coulson, the tabloid editor turned mouthpiece for Prime Minister David Cameron, guilty on one count.
But more than a decade before the verdicts, the pair admitted in a 2003 parliamentary hearing that they had paid off police officers for information, which one member of parliament called a flagrant violation of the law. Jurors are still considering charges related to whether Coulson and another editor at The News of the World paid police officers for access to information.
So far, Coulson is the only one of the seven defendants in the case found guilty of conspiracy to intercept mobile phone calls and messages. But he and Brooks helped draw attention to the practices at the News of the World in 2003 when they admitted to Member of Parliament Chris Bryant that they had paid police for information. PBS’ Frontline highlighted the admission in a 2012 report.
“Do either of your newspapers ever use private detectives, ever bug or pay the police?” Bryant asked in the 2003 hearing.
“We have paid the police for information in the past, and it’s been –” said Brooks, before Coulson interrupted her to say the tabloids paid police “only within the law.”
Bryant noted that paying police officers was a criminal offense — corrupting a police officer — but Coulson again said he and Brooks operated within the law.
Now jurors will decide whether Coulson and royals editor Clive Goodman broke the law by conspiring to pay police for royal phone directories.
You can watch the Frontline video here (the confessions come at the 7:45 mark).