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Attorney General was inside No 10 when Cameron recorded Coulson statement

25 June 2014

Mr Justice Saunders, who presided over the phone hacking trial, is not impressed with David Cameron and Ed Miliband. He has branded the various political interventions of yesterday afternoon as ‘unsatisfactory so far as justice and the rule of law are concerned.’

Stern words from the bench. One wonders what the government’s lawyers make of them. Indeed, Mr S understands that Dominic Grieve QC, the Attorney General (the government’s chief legal officer), was actually inside No. 10 when Cameron was recording his ‘full and frank apology’ yesterday. Did Grieve advise the Prime Minister?

Mr S contacted Grieve’s office. A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office reiterated the long standing convention that they neither confirm nor deny whether the Law Officers have given advice or otherwise.

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  • Frank

    I doubt that Dominic Grieve was there to advise re Coulson. I imagine that he was in No10 to tell the PM that he had no legal grounds with which to block Herr Juncker’s appointment.

    • ButcombeMan

      It is surely inconceivable that Cameron would comment on an ongoing trial, midway through jury deliberations, without consulting legal advice. If he did he is even more stupid than I think.

      The most junior Detective Sergeant would know not to do that.

      If Grieve was consulted and let Cameron do it, they deserve each other. Just crass.

      • Dougie

        No, actually Cameron was rather clever. He got his apology out very quickly before Miliband could demand one at PMQs. A wrap on the knuckles from the trial judge was a price worth paying. And the chances of his comments actually influencing the jury, who were already 7 days into their deliberations after having listened to 130 days of evidence, is zero.

  • Harry Clark

    Cameron is a loud mouthed total idiot what else would you expect from him ?, as for Miliband he is just simple that gives him some sort of an excuse ?

  • Tony_E

    The judge has made two rather large errors of judgement here I think.

    Firstly, he should not, in a case of such public interest, have brought the jury back in to pronounce on the verdicts reached until the deadlock on the final charges was confirmed as unbreakable.

    Secondly, he should not have made the attack publicly in his courtroom naming the
    PM particularly, he should have made a representation to the Attorney General.

    I suspect that both ‘errors of judgement’ have a political element to them. Firstly, the Judiciary are not above a bit of low politics, and the justice department changes are not popular. Bringing in the verdicts on the Tuesday rather than waiting for all the deliberations to be completed made sure that Cameron had to face Miliband at the dispatch box.

    It also could not have escaped the Judges notice that Cameron would be under terrible pressure to make good on the apology he promised, so his expectation that this apology would not be forthcoming as soon as there was any guilty verdict on Coulson was either naive, arrogant, or deliberately mischief making.

    • Ooh!MePurse!

      Did the judge name Cameron? A genuine question by the way, not a challenge! He certainly criticised ‘politicians’, plural. To my knowledge both Balls and Harman made public utterances yesterday so it’s wrong that the headlines on this aspect have been purely focussed on Cameron.

      • Ooh!MePurse!

        The answer to my question is yes. I still feel the rest of my post stands.

      • Tony_E

        I think this displays the arrogance of the judge (and the Judiciary in general) rather well – in his final comments he decides that he was ‘correct to have taken partial verdicts’ because council had not criticised him for it.

        Of course council didn’t criticise him for it, they were trying to get him to rule the PM in contempt and rule a mistrial on the remaining charges. Neither prosecution or defence were therefore going to lay the boot into the judge to ‘sway’ him in their direction, especially after he’s lined them up a very high profile scapegoat.

        • Dougie

          I think that’s “counsel”. Unless you’re talking about Tower Hamlets …

    • Wessex Man

      Ther’s far too much ‘not made public’ especially by this particular Attorney General, who believes that most things are best kept quiet and in the Public Interest need not be explained!!

      Rotten to the core.

      • Tony_E

        Like what? If you are going to accuse the Attorney General of something, why not be a bit more specific?

        • Wessex Man

          There have been only four Freedom of Informations request that have gone as far as a Court Case against the Cabinet Office and been vetoed by the Attornery General.

          In fact there were only two subjects, one the Cabinet discussions that led to our counrtry going to war against Iraq by two different individuals and the other about the Cabinet Meetings minutes concerning the Devolution of Scotland and Wales and the English Regions(sic) again by two different individuals.

          In both cases the Freedom of Information Commissioner ruled the information should be released to the public and in both cases the Attornery General vetoed the matter killing it dead.

          In both cases it was two Attornery Generals Jack Straw and Dominic Grieve, one labour and one Tory.

          The Westminister Village is looking after their own. It emerged that David Cameron intended to or has, I not sure how far it’s got was going to exempt all Cabinet Matters from the FOI remit to save embarrassment.

          Is that specific enough for you?

          • Tony_E

            I would support cabinet matters being exempt from FOI unless there was a very good reason not to do so. There must be an ability for ministers to discuss solutions to problems without the restriction of knowing that their comments might become public, especially on ideas that might never be acted upon.

            While this will create some anomalies, the general principle is probably better for good government. Remember that Blair introduced freedom of information to that level, but then promptly moved most discussion of sensitive subjects away from the cabinet to informal meetings, meaning that we have little solid record of anything that happened, and internal oversight at a cabinet level simply dissolved. This was probably a worse outcome than simply having cabinet meetings and legal or civil service advice to ministers protected.

    • Dougie

      You should read what the judge actually said as opposed to how it was reported. He specifically noted that many politicians from all sides had commented inappropriately and added “I do not seek nor intend that the PM be singled out”.
      That said, it was a mistake to allow one Coulson verdict to be announced when the other two charges were still being deliberated on.

  • Peter Stroud

    So, according to judge Saunders, the jury were unaware that Coulson had assured the PM that he was innocent of phone hacking. Funny, I always assumed that he must have done so, otherwise he would not have been employed. I certainly don’t think I was unique in assuming this.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Dominic Grieve yet another useless upper class Tory twit who is eminently forgettable!

    PS can we have a thread about that other legal dimwit Helen Grant. She’s back from her junket in Brasil but did not have one word of regret (or indeed of any sort) regarding England’s early exit from the World Cup when approached by the media. Given she is the Sports Minister its reasonable to say that such an attitude is a very poor show. Do we know if she actually knows anything at all about football? We should also know whether when she takes her holidays this year whether she is planning a ‘staycation’.

    • Ooh!MePurse!

      I think your attempt to stir up a storm in a teacup has fallen on deaf ears. Perhaps a bigger spoon would work?

  • ButcombeMan

    There several issues here,

    The judge is quick to offer rebuke, as Judges so often are, but fails to recognise that he lost control. It was within his gift to say something about public comment before all the various verdicts had been given.

    Apparently he did not do that. Not clever at all. He knew the public & political issues.

    Cameron and the A&G also look foolish, Properly .advised Cameron would have said he could and would say nothing, pending the end of the trial. It would have been to his advantage to do that.

    So my interim finding (pending as they say-“further & better particulars”) is, all 3 are guilty.

    • starfish

      According to the beeb only the PM was rebuked

      • Ooh!MePurse!

        But the judge used the word ‘politicians’, plural. Beeb misreporting again.

  • toco10

    Seems like the judge is the one who deserves to be rebuked.Labour’s BBC will be very disappointed but it is inconceivable the hapless Carole Walker will issue a fullsome apology for what was naked political journalism on behalf of Red Ed and the Labour Party.

    • realfish

      I saw her report. It was appallingly one sided (Sky managed to get it right). The BBC should be made to explain itself, but of course the UK’s dominant media outlet remains to all intents and purposes unregulated.

      • dado_trunking

        Have you ever seen everyone get everything right all the time?
        If Sky was spot on then there you go. That’s diversity reporting for you. It’s not as if there was only one source of intel nowadays, is it.

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