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David Cameron Told Off By Hacking Trial Judge

Justice Saunders says Prime Minister's explanation for last night's statement "misses the point".

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Yesterday David Cameron apologised on Sky News for hiring Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor, as his director of communications.

"I am extremely sorry I employed him. It was the wrong decision," he said.

The trial finally concluded today, and the judge had harsh words for the Prime Minister and "other politicians".

The jury was still deliberating over two counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office in the case of Coulson and Clive Goodman, the former royal editor of News of the World, when the Prime Minister issued his statement. Ed Miliband had also given a statement in which he said: "This isn't just a serious error of judgement, it taints David Cameron's government."

I asked for an explanation from the Prime Minister as to why he had issued his statement while the jury were still considering verdict. I received a response from his principal private secretary which said 'the Prime Minister was responding to the guilty verdict on hacking charges that had been delivered in open court. He did this in the light of the intense media coverage and understandable public interest. The Prime Minister was careful to make no further comment about any matters that might still be before the court.' I accept that was the Prime Minister's intention but I am afraid that to an extent his explanation misses the point. He has now told the public and therefore the jury that he was given assurances by Mr Coulson before he employed him which turned out to be untrue. The jury were not aware of that before and it is a matter which is capable of affecting Mr Coulson's credibility in their eyes [...]The press in court have been extremely responsible in their reporting of this case but when politicians regard it as open season, one cannot expect the press to remain silent. I accept that this case is very unusual if not unique, but the situation could occur again and I would urge that discussions take place to try and set up a better system of dealing with it.
That does not mean that I am not concerned about what has happened in this case. I consider that what has happened is unsatisfactory so far as press and the rule of law are concerned.

David Cameron took "the best legal advice" before making his televised apology yesterday, Downing Street has said. For Labour's part, a senior source has told ITV: ""It seems to us that these are matters between the judge and the Prime Minister."

HT Mark Frankel.