After eight months and around £100m of costs, we have the phone-hacking verdicts. Andy Coulson is guilty of conspiring to intercept voice-mail messages; Rebekah Brooks has been acquitted on all charges.
This is not to the liking of some folk and, predictably, a great many of them have taken to social media to express their disquiet. Most of them are talking nonsense, and may well come to regret their actions.
Opinions began to flood the web while the verdicts were still being delivered. The instant nature of modern communications meant the judge was made aware of this, and he paused proceedings to caution against such expressions. This was a blanket warning but, as became clear, it included the Prime Minister who had also jumped the gun, issuing his statements prematurely. In a display of impressive back-peddling, Downing Street assured us Cameron had acted on high-level legal advice. This is code for the Attorney General’s guidance – and as it would be that same official who would be responsible for sanctioning the PM, we can assume the matter is closed.
Nevertheless, a case is still in progress until all the verdicts are in, and is therefore ‘sub-judice’. Any comment is forbidden during this period and offenders are deemed to be in contempt of court. It’s unlikely everyone who posted their shilling’s worth too early will be prosecuted, but some intervention is not impossible.