The seven-year phone-hacking saga once again occupied centrestage in British politics as Prime Minister David Cameron faced a grilling in the House of Commons on Wednesday and it emerged that media baron Rupert Murdoch is to be questioned by the police as a suspect.
Cameron was on the backfoot as leader of the opposition Ed Miliband persisted in his questions over Cameron’s decision to hire Andy Coulson as his communications director despite advice to the contrary from several quarters, and for bringing “a criminal into the heart of Downing Street”.
Coulson was found guilty on Tuesday of conspiring to hack into phone messages of individuals while he was editor of the Murdoch-owned ‘News of the World’. The verdict partly concludes the eight-month trial while a series of inquiries by the police continue.
On Wednesday, the jury in the phone-hacking trial was discharged after failing to reach verdicts on other outstanding charges against Coulson and journalist Clive Goodman. Coulson is due to be sentenced at a later date.
Nick Davies, a journalist for The Guardian whose exposes in 2011 on phone-hacking aroused revulsion among the public about news-gathering practices in the British press, reported on Wednesday that Murdoch would be questioned by the police “under caution”, the legal warning given to suspects.
Scotland Yard was reportedly keen to question Murdoch in 2013, but it was agreed that it would be held after the phone-hacking trial was over. Murdoch is already mired in several legal cases related to phone-hacking in Britain.
“The verdict on Coulson also means that Murdoch’s UK company is now threatened with a possible corporate charge, while the media owner also faces the prospect of a dozen more criminal trials involving his journalists as well as hundreds more legal actions in the high court from the alleged victims of phone hacking by the News of the World”, Davies reported.