The phone hacking trial, which concluded just over a week ago, was the longest trial in recent legal history.
There were seven months of hearings, 42,000 pages of evidence from the CPS, twelve defendants and crimes investigated over a ten year period. It exposed corruption and criminality at the heart of the bourgeois press. The estimated amount spent by the defence on out-of-court settlements and legal fees of former employees of News International varies — but some have put it as high as £1 billion. Rupert Murdoch funded the defences of former editor of the Sun, Rebekah Brooks (who was acquitted due to a lack of clear evidence) and former editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson.
Andy Coulson, who was employed as the Prime Minister's Director of Communications before resigning in January 2011, was convicted along with others as being guilty of conspiracy to hack phones. He is also to face re-trial for buying royal telephone directories from police officers and may be made to pay back £750,000 of legal costs. £1.7 million was spent on the police investigation and more than £750,000 of public money on the case itself.
The News of the World was closed down by Murdoch in Summer 2011, after 168 years of press. The UK section of News Corporation has changed its name to 'News UK'. Other than that, little seems to have changed, little fuss seems to have been made, and it is fair to say that this trial ended with a whimper rather than a bang.
The ruling class appears to be getting away with it. David Cameron apologised for hiring Andy Coulson, saying it was 'the wrong decision', but he does not appear to be particularly embattled or embarrassed by the scandal – despite being warned and despite solid knowledge that phone hacking had gone on at the News of the World from as early as 2007.
This is why Marxists use terms like “the bourgeois press”. It is in the interests of the ruling class to not make this into too much of a “big deal”. Some publications have raised questions, including the Guardian, who ran a story asking why the Prime Minister was getting away with it, and Businessweek, who described Rupert Murdoch as an “escape artist”. But, considering the implications of the trial, little has really been said.
The brazenness of Murdoch and his “inner circle” is striking. At the start of the trial, one of Rebekah Brooks's defence lawyers attempted to get the case against Brooks thrown due to prejudicial news coverage. The prosecution pointed out the case of Abu Hamza, who tried the same thing in 2006 due to news coverage in the Sun, which was then edited by Brooks, but faced trial anyway. Claims have also been made that Brooks could phone Downing Street to get a visa sorted out at short notice.
I am reminded of a quote from the American Trotskyist James Cannon — “The bosses went too far — they always do”. Coulson and others acted as if they were above the law. David Cameron employed him anyway. Yet here Cameron is — getting away with it.