Crime & the Law

Former News of Word Deputy Editor Neil Wallis Not Guilty of phone hacking conspiracy

'Final NOTW cover' by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

‘Final NOTW cover’ by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

The News of the World’s former deputy editor has accused police and prosecutors of a ‘vicious politically-driven’ campaign against the press after he was cleared of being part of the phone-hacking plot.

Neil Wallis was Andy Coulson’s right-hand man between 2003 and 2007.

He was on trial accused of being part of the scandal which led to the Sunday tabloid shutting down in July 2011.

An Old Bailey jury deliberated for four days before finding 64-year-old Mr Wallis, from Chiswick, west London, not guilty.

He broke down in court and thanked the jury.

Outside court he said the case had ‘ruined’ his life.

He strongly criticized Operation Weeting detectives and the Crown Prosecution Service.

He said:

Four years. Four years after I was arrested, I finally walk out of here a free man. It’s cost me and my family most of our life savings.

It’s ruined my life all because of a vicious politically-driven campaign against the press launched by (former director of public prosecutions) Keir Starmer and (his then principal legal adviser) Alison Levitt.

He added:

This is the culmination of a political drive by the police and the CPS. It’s a disgrace.

I just want to say I will never get over this. I’ve been virtually unable to work for four years.

It’s taken my health, my family’s health and all because of a campaign against journalists.

He was asked by a broadcaster if he blamed his former editor Andy Coulson for what had happened and he replied:

I believe the people who got me into this situation were the CPS and Operation Weeting detectives who, when I was arrested, talked to me about Milly Dowler – basic detective research would have shown I was not even working.

Mr Wallis is the last of the journalists from the tabloid to face legal action over the hacking it deployed in the hunt for exclusive stories on celebrities, royals and politicians.

The prosecution alleged it was inconceivable that he did not know what was going on at the News of the World since his boss and a number of other journalists in the newsroom had all been convicted of their involvement.

Since its closure, a total of eight journalists, including Coulson, have been convicted of being part of the hacking plot.

In his defence, Mr Wallis denied being involved in the hacking plot, saying he was not concerned with the details of the sources of big stories after they had already been vetted by company lawyers.

He told the jury that at the time Mr Blunkett’s affair with a married woman was exposed through phone hacking, his boss Coulson had misled him into believing the information had come from a well-placed source.

He also highlighted his work on the newspaper’s behalf drawing up amendments to the Press Complaints Commission editors’ code of practice.

For a number of years Mr Wallis has publicly used his Twitter account and appearances in the media and at conferences to complain that the state had over-reacted to the phone hacking scandal and carry out a witch hunt against popular journalists.

After being acquitted he tweeted:

The Met Police said after the verdict:

It was only right that the Metropolitan Police Service carried out a full and thorough investigation to establish if crime had been committed and to hold to account anyone responsible. The victims deserved no less.

This was a challenging and complex investigation during which we have been highly conscious of the sensitivities and legal complexities. We have carried out that investigation without fear or favour.

“All the evidence has been aired publicly in a court of law and the jury have made their decision. That is a decision we respect.

Neil Wallis retorted on Twitter:

How the story unfolded and social media reaction.

Neil Wallis interview with Press Gazette

Neil Wallis: ‘After four years of utter hell and devastation the case against me was: Well, he must have known’

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