Prosecutors Pursue Retrial Despite Public's Phone Hacking Fatigue

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Prosecutors are going after Andy Coulson again after a jury failed to reach a majority verdict on two charges in the phone hacking scandal last week. 

Coulson, the former News of the World editor, and his former colleague, Clive Goodman, both face two charges of "conspiring to cause misconduct in public office," for allegedly attempting to purchase royal phone directories from a palace police officer in 2005. Last week, a judge discharged the jury deliberating on these charges after they could not reach a suitable agreement. Andrew Edis, of the Crown Prosecution Service, announced Monday they plan to go ahead with a retrial. 

According to the BBC, Edis described the directories in question as "a Who's Who to Britain for the first five years of the century," later adding that "what occurred was the routine invasion of privacy and that has the capacity to do serious harm." 

After a long trial that will most likely be remembered as one of the most expensive in British history, the public's stance has splintered from the prosecution. What was once characterized as a witch hunt now more closely resembles the beating of a dead horse. "It is impossible not to conclude that the response of the police, prosecutors and the Government to what was undoubtedly an unedifying episode in the annals of British newspapers was completely out of proportion," Philip Johnston wrote in The Telegraph last week

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Coulson was found guilty of conspiracy to commit phone hacking last week, and now awaits a verdict that could send him to prison for a maximum of two years. Rebekah Brooks, Coulson's former boss and a close ally of News of the World's owner, Rupert Murdoch, was acquitted of similar charges at the same time. 

In retrospect, the hacking scandal is largely seen as a referendum against the cozy, classic relationships fostered between editors like Brooks and the politicians they cover. “The excess of ludicrous schmoozing will be seen as the high watermark of a certain type of Fleet Street. That era will never be seen again” George Brock, professor of journalism at City University, told the Financial Times. It's too early to say if the intense tabloid competition that Fleet Street has become famous for is dead, but its health is certainly beginning to fail.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.