Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

No charges in phone hacking probe

Claims about Tory communications chief Andy Coulson were made in a New York Times article
Claims about Tory communications chief Andy Coulson were made in a New York Times article

No further charges will be brought over the News of the World phone hacking scandal because witnesses refused to co-operate with police, the Director of Public Prosecutions has said.

Keir Starmer QC said the Sunday paper's former reporter Sean Hoare made claims in a New York Times article about the Prime Minister's communications chief Andy Coulson, who has faced calls to resign over the matter.

But Mr Hoare refused to comment when questioned by police, while other witnesses "either refused to co-operate with the police investigation, provided short statements which did not advance matters or denied any knowledge of wrongdoing", Mr Starmer said.

Mr Coulson was editor of the News of the World in 2007 when its royal editor Clive Goodman was jailed for conspiracy to access phone messages involving Princes William and Harry, but always denied any knowledge of the practice.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was asked to consider the case when a Scotland Yard inquiry was revived after an investigation by the New York Times alleged that the practice was more widespread at the paper than previously admitted.

But on Friday, Mr Starmer said that against the background on unco-operation, "there is no admissible evidence upon which the CPS could properly advise the police to bring criminal charges".

He added: "The contents of the reports in the New York Times and the associated reports and coverage are not enough for criminal proceedings unless those making allegations are prepared to provide the police with admissible evidence to support their assertions.

"None have been prepared to do so."

A panel of police officers and prosecutors will be put together to investigate any further allegations that are made in the future, he said.

Scotland Yard said the police investigation will remain closed, saying the CPS advice they received read: "There is insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction against any person identified in the New York Times article. In fact, I consider that the available evidence falls well below that threshold."

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