News Ltd – weak at the knees

Guy Rundle, Crikey.com.au

Tuesday 25th July in London was pretty good for that most ancient of Olympic sports — schadenfreude. The day had barely begun when the news came buzzing along the wires that the UK plod was charging eight former News International journalists and assorted hangers on with crimes related to phone hacking, most particularly the hacking of the mobile phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson are the most high-profile of those charged. Both the former UK News Group head and editor of News of the World during its hacking years have already been charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice, with regard to the alleged disposal of evidence of phone hacking. These new charges are the first to touch on the hacking directly.

They both issued statements saying they were extremely disappointed at the decision, there was no evidence they had performed phone hacking, etc, no evidence of conspiracy and will defend themselves to the hilt. Sadly there was no staccato Twitter poetry from Rupert Murdoch offering them his full support and the full legal resources of News Limited.

For Brooks and Coulson, the extra charges are a nightmare, as they will be entangled with the perversion-of-justice charges. Coulson faces three trials — the third for perjury in the Tommy Sheridan case, where the Scottish socialist was himself being sued for perjury following a libel action against News of the World. Indeed, Coulson faces the prospect of consecutive jail terms, first in England, and then in Scotland on the perjury case. If convicted on all three, he might not see much change out of 10 years.

For Brooks and the others, conviction may not be their only worry. Legal fees are likely to bankrupt them all, and legal aid will only kick in once they have depleted their resources. The less senior journalists and editors charged will be ruined by this, and the years of stress, financial drainage and guilt will destroy not only their lives, but those around them – the innocent and the guilty alike are crushed when the state, like a juggernaut, a square stone resting on round stones, starts to roll.

Read the full analysis from Guy Rundle in London at Crikey.com.au