Coulson guilty: Cameron apologises but Miliband declares government ‘tainted’
David Cameron has apologised after his former spin doctor Andy Coulson was found guilty of phone-hacking – but Ed Miliband has declared the entire government is "tainted" by the verdict.
Coulson, who served as Cameron's director of communications, was convicted of conspiracy to intercept messages this lunchtime in a long-anticipated verdict which has finally rocked Westminster.
The prime minister said he was "extremely sorry" in a brief clip recorded inside Downing Street – away from the floor of the Commons chamber where he made the pledge to apologise three years ago.
Cameron said he had hired Coulson into a publicly-funded job while in opposition "on the basis of undertakings I was given by him" that he was not involved in illegal activity.
Following today's verdict, which saw Coulson convicted of conspiracy to intercept messages, the prime minister accepted he had made a mistake.
"I always said if they turned out to be wrong I would make a full and frank apology and I do that today," the PM said.
"I'm extremely sorry I employed him, it was the wrong decision, and I'm very clear about that."
Cameron repeatedly pointed out no-one had complained about Coulson's work for Cameron either as leader of the opposition or in No 10, before adding: "I gave him a job, it was a second chance, it turned out to be a bad decision."
The opposition is not prepared to accept Cameron's apology, however.
Coulson verdict another damning indictment of Cameron's terrible, terrible judgement.
— Ben Bradshaw (@BenPBradshaw) June 24, 2014
Coulson in no 10 goes to heart of the leadership question.Do we want a leader who stands up to the powerful or one who hires their cronies?
— Jon Trickett (@jon_trickett) June 24, 2014
Miliband has already suggested the prime minister was willing to ignore repeated warnings about Coulson's activity because Cameron did not want to offend Coulson's former employer Rupert Murdoch.
"I think David Cameron has very very serious questions to answer because we now know he brought a criminal into the heart of Downing Street," he said.
"David Cameron must have had his suspicions about Andy Coulson and yet he refused to act. I believe this isn't just a serious error judgement – it taints David Cameron's government because we now know he put his relationship with Rupert Murdoch ahead of doing the right thing."
The apology came after news of the conviction emerged from the Old Bailey. Cameron had pledged to apologise in July 2011, when he told the Commons he would "not fall short" in the event of a guilty verdict.
Chancellor George Osborne hit out at Ed Balls after his shadow raised the verdict on the floor of the Commons during Treasury questions earlier.
VIDEO: Balls and Osborne on Coulson verdict – The shadow chancellor tells MPs in the Commons about Andy Coulson's … http://t.co/EV2RUl7TVk
— NLTwe3ts (@NLTwe3ts) June 24, 2014
But Osborne – who made the initial approach to Coulson before Cameron took the final decision to hire him – later put out a statement echoing the Conservative leader's language.
"It's important for the victims of phone hacking that this has now been properly dealt with by the courts; and it matters for us all that we have a free and vibrant press which operates within the law," he said.
Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of the News Of The World tabloid, was cleared of the phone-hacking charge in a unanimous verdict by jurors. She was also cleared of misconduct in a public office and two charges of perverting the course of justice.
But the jury has only returned a partial verdict, leaving Coulson having to wait to discover whether he will be found guilty or not guilty of charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice involving corrupt payments to police officers.
The judge has directed that a majority verdict will be accepted on the remaining charges.
Brooks' husband Charlie Brooks, her former PA Cheryl Carter and Mark Hanna, News International's former security chief, were all acquitted of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Stuart Kuttner, the ex-managing editor of the News Of The World, was acquitted of phone-hacking.
In a statement News UK – the new name for News International – said: "We made changes in the way we do business to help ensure wrongdoing like this does not occur again.
"And we are strong supporters of the Independent Press Standards Organisation that is expected to begin work this autumn, serving as a watchdog on the industry in the public interest."