Hacking probes: What happens next?

 
Andy Coulson leaving the Old Bailey Convicted: Andy Coulson

What happens now? The conviction of Andy Coulson - and acquittal of Rebekah Brooks and others - is by no means the end of the road for the investigations into criminality - actual or alleged - inside newspapers.

Although The Sun has declared, in a smart, punning headline, that Rebekah Brooks' acquittal was a "great day for red tops", the full picture is rather more complex.

The scale of the investigation remains enormous and it could take another two years, if not longer, for all the potential cases to come to conclusion.

The investigations

Scotland Yard has run 11 linked operations since it relaunched its inquiry into hacking in 2011. Detectives have arrested 210 people and interviewed others under caution.

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Scotland Yard's investigations
  • Weeting: News of the World hacking
  • Elveden: Corrupt payments, various newspapers
  • Pinetree: Second News of the World hacking inquiry
  • Golding: Alleged Mirror Group Newspapers hacking
  • Sacha: Alleged attempt to conceal evidence
  • Tuleta: Alleged computer hacking
  • Kalmyk, Sabinas, Carrizo and Kerville: Other computer misuse inquiries
  • Caryatid: Original 2005-06 hacking inquiry
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The investigations began with Operation Weeting - examining hacking at the News of the World - and then branched out into Operation Elveden - looking at allegations of corrupt payments to public officials. Police then launched a third plank to look at computer hacking and misuse of data.

Operation Pinetree is now looking at allegations of a second conspiracy to hack phones at the News of the World. Then there is Operation Golding which is investigating Mirror Group Newspapers

There have been eight convictions relating to hacking since 2006, when private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and royal editor Clive Goodman were first jailed.

Ahead of the 2013-14 hacking trial, five people pleaded guilty: Glenn Mulcaire for a second time, reporters Dan Evans and Neville Thurlbeck, and news editors Greg Miskiw and James Weatherup. Andy Coulson was then found guilty.

In Operation Elveden there have been 14 convictions of public officials for taking or seeking payments - seven of them police officers.

Future cases and decisions

Ian Edmondson, a former News of the World news editor, will be tried at a later date for alleged conspiracy to hack. He was excused from the Coulson trial due to ill health.

There are 59 people from Elveden still to face trial - plus potentially a retrial of Andy Coulson and Clive Goodman after the jury at the hacking trial could not reach verdicts on the corruption allegations they faced.

One of the big trials in the pipeline concerns alleged activity at The Sun and involves Bettina Jordan-Barber, a former Ministry of Defence official who was paid close to £100,000 for stories. Trials are also due to continue throughout the autumn and well into the New Year.

Some 31 people are on police bail waiting to find out whether they will be charged under Operation Elveden. A further 20 are waiting for decisions relating to the various hacking strands.

Some of the journalists held under Elveden have waited for more than a year to find out whether they will have to answer criminal charges. One person arrested on allegations of computer hacking has been waiting for a decision since July 2012.

Corporate prosecution?
Rupert Murdoch before MPs Rupert Murdoch appearing before MPs

On top of all that, the Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service are looking at a possible corporate prosecution.

A company can face trial if illegal acts were carried out by senior figures who acted as the controlling mind of the organisation. So prosecutors would have to prove that Andy Coulson's criminality, as editor, represented the will of the newspaper's parent company.

News International's former chief executive, Les Hinton, has been interviewed under caution. He worked for NI for almost 50 years and was Rupert Murdoch's right hand man. Scotland Yard also want to question Rupert Murdoch himself.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp is also co-operating with parallel investigations by the US Department of Justice.

The costs

So far, News International/News UK has settled 718 claims for compensation for hacking with the pay-outs plus legal costs topping $400m. Those pay-outs represent less than 15% of the suspected 5,500 victims of hacking. Scotland Yard has traced and alerted 3,500 of them and any of these people could apply to the formal compensation scheme the company is running to avoid more costly court action.

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Hacking costs to News Corp
  • $382m: Costs to June 2013
  • $106m: Estimated future costs
  • $226m: Losses due to closing News of the World
  • $151m: Business restructuring following hacking
  • Source: News Corp accounts
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Approximately 30 damages claims - as yet unproven - are also being prepared against Mirror Group Newspapers, including claims by football manager Sven Goran Erikson and David and Victoria Beckham's former nanny.

The police investigations have so far cost £33m - and Scotland Yard said it had required an "unprecedented level of resources" to sift the evidence. "The scale of the material that needed to be searched included millions of emails, tens of thousands of documents, complex communications data and trails of financial transactions that required painstaking analysis as evidence gradually emerged," it said.

The entire affair has cost Rupert Murdoch's News Corp more than £500m - including settlements, legal fees, loss of profits from closing the News of the World and a huge sum on restructuring the business to deal with the crisis. Those costs will rise further.

The hacking trial has cost the Crown Prosecution Service a further £1.7m - most of that obviously relating to fees for a large team of barristers.

 
Dominic Casciani Article written by Dominic Casciani Dominic Casciani Home affairs correspondent

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