June 24 (Bloomberg) -- Rebekah Brooks, the former head of News Corp.’s U.K. publishing unit, was found not guilty of phone hacking, bribery and perverting the course of justice by a London jury after an eight-month trial triggered by one of the biggest media scandals in British history.
Andy Coulson, a former editor of News Corp.’s News of the World tabloid who went to become a media adviser to U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, was found guilty of one count of phone hacking. Brooks’s husband Charlie and her former personal assistant, Cheryl Carter, were also cleared of charges they destroyed evidence at the height of the phone-hacking furor in 2011.
The verdicts today are the climax of a scandal that erupted three years ago amid the discovery that reporters at the News of the World hacked the phone of a murdered teenager, Milly Dowler. The fallout led to a judicial inquiry on the ethics of the press.
Brooks, 46, who previously edited the News of the World and News Corp.’s daily Sun tabloid, was one of seven people on trial for phone hacking and bribing public officials by journalists at the newspapers. News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch closed the News of the World in 2011 in a bid to temper public outrage over the hacking of Dowler’s phone.
News Corp.’s U.K. unit said in a statement after the verdicts that the company has paid compensation to phone-hacking victims and has cooperated with investigations.
“We said long ago, and repeat today, that wrongdoing occurred, and we apologized for it,” News UK said in an e- mailed statement. “We made changes in the way we do business to help ensure wrongdoing like this does not occur again.”
Brooks, her husband and their lawyers left the courtroom and went to a private room at the courthouse. Neither commented to the press as they left the building.
Charlie Brooks, wearing a white button-down shirt, and Coulson, in a navy blue suit, both remained stoic as the verdicts were read.
The jury is continuing to deliberate on other charges against Coulson, 46, and Clive Goodman, a former reporter at the News of the World.
Cameron will meet his 2011 commitment to apologize if Coulson was found guilty of phone hacking, his spokesman, Jean- Christophe Gray, said today.
“The prime minister’s words to Parliament stand entirely,” Gray said.
Stuart Kuttner, 74, the former managing editor of the News of the World, was found not guilty of phone hacking. Mark Hanna, a News Corp. security guard, was also cleared of hiding evidence.
Murdoch closed the 168-year-old News of the World in July 2011, days after the Guardian newspaper reported about Dowler’s phone. Murdoch dropped a 7.8 billion-pound ($13.3 billion) bid for full control of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc to contain the public backlash.
Murdoch and his son James, who was then head of the company’s European operations, never appeared at the trial, but testified in front of Parliament and a media inquiry about the scandal. Murdoch’s questioning by lawmakers in July 2011 was interrupted when a comedian threw a foam pie.