* Andy Coulson convicted last week over phone-hacking
* Jury unable to decide on illegal payments charge
* Four other former Murdoch staff admitted hacking guilt
* Prosecution says they "utterly corrupted" newspaper
(Adds quotes, details from hearing)
By Michael Holden
LONDON, June 30 British Prime Minister David
Cameron's ex-media chief Andy Coulson, found guilty last week
over phone-hacking while editing a Rupert Murdoch tabloid, will
stand trial for a second time over alleged illegal payments,
prosecutors said on Monday.
Coulson was convicted by a jury of being complicit in
widespread tapping of voicemails by journalists at Murdoch's now
defunct News of the World Sunday tabloid following an
eight-month trial at London's Old Bailey.
However, the jury was unable to reach a verdict on whether
Coulson and the paper's former royal editor, Clive Goodman, were
guilty of making illegal payments to a police officer to obtain
telephone directories for Britain's royal family. They denied
Rebekah Brooks, the ex-chief executive of News Corp.'s
British newspaper arm News International who was also
tried over phone-hacking allegations and other crimes, was
cleared on all charges.
The announcement of the re-trial was made as Coulson and
three other senior journalists, who ran the tabloid's news desk
and have admitted their role in phone-hacking, appeared in court
for a sentencing hearing.
"For a period of years there was industrial-scale
phone-hacking at the News of the World," prosecutor Andrew Edis
"These defendants utterly corrupted that newspaper which
became at the very highest level a thoroughly criminal
The 46-year-old Coulson edited the News of the World, then
Britain's biggest-selling newspaper, between 2003 and 2007. He
stepped down after Goodman and private investigator Glenn
Mulcaire admitted hacking into phones of royal aides to generate
front page news stories.
Just months later he went to work as the communications
director for Cameron, first in opposition and then in Downing
Street when the Conservative leader was elected as prime
minister in 2010.
Cameron made a public apology following Coulson's
conviction, as his political rivals said the appointment had
demonstrated the prime minister's lack of judgment.
News International had originally claimed hacking was
limited to a "rogue reporter" but increasing numbers of people
came forward to say they too had been hacked between 2009 and
2011. The scandal reached a nadir in July 2011 when it was
revealed journalists at the paper had hacked the voicemails of
murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
Following a new police investigation, three other senior
journalists from the tabloid, Greg Miskiw, Neville Thurlbeck and
James Weatherup pleaded guilty to being part of a phone-hacking
conspiracy before the trial began. Mulcaire also admitted
carrying out the hacking of Dowler's phone.
Edis said the names of targets, detailed meticulously in
Mulcaire's notebooks, read like a "Who's who of Britain in the
first five years of the century," with the years 2005 to 2006 a
"golden period" for hacking.
"Politicians, actors, footballers, suspected criminals,
actual criminals, indeed almost anybody who appeared in
newspapers at this time was represented somewhere in that list.
"In particular names of the royal family and members of the
cabinet were targeted."
The maximum sentence for conspiracy to hack phones is two
years in prison.
Edis said the estimated prosecution costs for phone-hacking,
which could be claimed from the convicted parties, was 750,000
pounds, but it was not clear if News Corp. would be liable for
any order made against Coulson.
Coulson went to London's High Court before the trial to
ensure News Corp. would pay for his defence bills but it was not
clear if they would indemnify him against any court costs, Edis
told the judge.
(Editing by Kate Holton and Robin Pomeroy)