No new phone-hack charges as witnesses tightlipped

There is no new evidence to bring criminal charges in the News of the World phone hacking investigation, the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC said today.

The announcement follows a series of new police interviews with former News of the World staffers, including former editor Andy Coulson.

Former News of the World reporter Sean Hoare, who made claims about Tory communications chief Coulson in a New York Times article, was questioned by police under caution but refused to comment, Starmer said.

Other witnesses also “either refused to co-operate with the police investigation, provided short statements which did not advance matters, or denied any knowledge of wrongdoing”.

Starmer said: “Sean Hoare, who made significant allegations in the New York Times and elsewhere, was interviewed by the police but refused to comment.

“A number of other witnesses were interviewed and either refused to co-operate with the police investigation, provided short statements which did not advance matters, or denied any knowledge of wrongdoing.

“Against that background, there is no admissible evidence upon which the CPS could properly advise the police to bring criminal charges.

“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, Mr Starmer said.

He added: “I have made it clear that a robust attitude needs to be taken to any unauthorised interception.

“But a criminal prosecution can only take place if those making allegations of wrongdoing are prepared to co-operate with a criminal investigation and to provide admissible evidence of the wrongdoing they allege.

“It is possible that further allegations will be made and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) remains willing to consider any evidence submitted to us by the police.

“To facilitate this, the CPS and the Metropolitan Police Service intend to convene a panel of police officers and prosecutors to assess those allegations with a view to determining whether or not investigations should take place.”

The police investigation will remain closed, Scotland Yard said.

A force spokesman said the advice it received from the CPS 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.”

Coulson was editor of the News of the World at the time when its royal editor Clive Goodman was jailed for conspiracy to access phone messages involving Princes William and Harry.

Coulson has always denied any knowledge of the practice.

A Metropolitan Police inquiry was revived earlier this year following an investigation by the New York Times which alleged that the practice was more widespread at the Sunday paper than previously admitted.

The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee is conducting an inquiry into phone-hacking and the police response to allegations.

And the Commons agreed in September to refer claims that the newspaper had targeted MPs’ phones to the House’s Standards and Privileges Committee to investigate.

Today, Coulson admitted his editorial team did not “get it right” in Goodman’s case as he gave evidence to the perjury trial of former MSP Tommy Sheridan.

He insisted yesterday that he had never heard of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed along with Goodman, until the allegations emerged.

“I don’t accept there was a culture of phone hacking at the News of the World,” he told the court.

Coulson also denied that his staff practised the “dark arts” of journalism, saying: “As far as my reporters were concerned they were to work within the law and to work within the PCC (Press Complaints Commission) code.”

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