LONDON, June 25 (Reuters) - The judge in the British phone-hacking trial criticised Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday for not waiting until all verdicts were in before commenting on Andy Coulson, his former media chief who is facing jail.
A jury at London’s Old Bailey court on Tuesday found Coulson, who ran Cameron’s media operations from 2007-2011, guilty of conspiring to intercept messages to break news about royalty, celebrities and victims of crime.
Less than two hours after the verdict on Tuesday, Cameron issued what he called a “full and frank” apology, saying he had taken Coulson’s assurances of innocence at the time at face value, something he now realised was a mistake.
The jury was however still deliberating on two further charges on Coulson.
“I asked for an explanation from the Prime Minister as to why he had issued his statement while the jury were still considering verdicts” the judge, John Saunders, said in court.
“My sole concern is to ensure that justice is done. Politicians have other imperatives and I understand that. Whether the political imperative was such that statements could not await all the verdicts, I leave to others to judge.”
The jury was discharged on Wednesday after failing to reach agreement on whether Coulson was guilty of authorising illegal payments.
Coulson’s lawyer, Timothy Langdale, said Cameron’s intervention was extraordinarily ill advised.
“This is an extraordinary situation where the ill advised, premature intervention by the prime minister and others to avoid political damage or to make political capital is impossible for the jury to ignore. It strikes at the heart of justice.” (Reporting by Michael Holden, writing by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Kate Holton)