It was, indeed, “slightly sad,” as phone hacking trail judge Lord Justice Saunders remarked, that former New of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck (left, who pleaded guilty to phone hacking along with some NoW colleagues) had chosen to give his version of events only after the jury in the trial had reached their verdicts.
These included the acquital of former News International boss Rebekah Brooks and NoW managing editor Stuart Kuttner on all charges. Former NoW editor Andy Coulson was found guilty and faces a retrial on charges of illegally paying Buckingham Palace sources for Royal Royal Household phone directories.
Thurlbeck’s barrister said on his behalf that phone hacking was “known and approved by more senior figures” at the paper and Thurlbeck was a pretty senior figure himself. Had Thurlbeck, who was involved in many of the NoW’s seedier investigations but who now claims to live by a “stringent moral code” chosen to testify, the jury might have been better informed.
As things stand, Coulson (who became PM David Cameron’s head of communications after he resigned from the NoW) looks rather like the fall guy. There was, indeed, more direct evidence against him and it’s surprising, in some ways, that he didn’t change his plea. Paying for Royal Household phone directories is hardly worth another trial at the Old Bailey. He will probably also find that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. declines to pay his legal bills after he has been found guilty.
Still, his memoirs should make interesting reading when he complete his sentence, which is still to be determined.