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Tainted Prime Minister David Cameron was badly scorched yesterday as he attempted to escape the heat of the phone hacking scandal.
Labour leader Ed Miliband accused him in the Commons of bringing disgrace to Downing Street by employing the “criminal” Andy Coulson as his closest adviser.
Repeatedly, Mr Cameron was forced to seek refuge behind the tame phone-hacking report cobbled up by Lord Justice Leveson in 2012.
Leveson had made “no criticism of my conduct whatsoever,” he pleaded.
The Prime Minister also suffered the embarrassment of a public rebuke by the judge in the Old Bailey phone-hacking trial for commenting on the conviction of Mr Coulson while the trial had been still continuing.
Mr Justice Saunders told the court that Mr Cameron’s comments on Tuesday had been regrettable and unsatisfactory.
It emerged that the angry judge had contacted the PM’s office to complain.
In an unprecedented move, the judge requested an explanation as to whether Mr Cameron’s comments were made “in ignorance or done deliberately.”
Mr Cameron had told TV viewers that he was “sorry” about his “bad decision” to give Mr Coulson a second chance after he resigned as editor of the News of the World.
The Old Bailey jury was discharged yesterday after failing to reach verdicts on further charges against both Mr Coulson and former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman. These charges relate to allegations that the pair paid for two royal phone books.
A decision on a retrial on charges of misconduct in public office will be announced on Monday, along with sentences on Mr Coulson plus five others who pleaded guilty to phone hacking.
Mr Miliband declared in the Commons: “Today we know that for four years the Prime Minister’s handpicked, closest adviser was a criminal and brought disgrace to Downing Street.”
He accused the PM of ignoring repeated warnings about Mr Coulson.
Mr Cameron was pushed further onto the ropes when Labour MP Chris Bryant shouted: “The Prime Minister said yesterday that he was just giving Andy Coulson a second chance.
“That means that he knew that there was a first offence, and that he knew from the very beginning that he was taking a criminal into Downing Street.”
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