A former deputy editor of the News of the World was today found not guilty of conspiring to intercept mobile phone voicemails.
Neil Wallis, 64, burst into tears on hearing the verdict and mouthed "thank you" to the jury from the glass covered dock.
The veteran newspaperman, known in the trade as "the Wolfman", had been accused of being involved in hacking the phones associated with various celebrities and political figures including actors Daniel Craig and Sienna Miller, former England football manager Sven Goran-Eriksson and then Home Secretary David Blunkett.
The jury rejected the prosecution argument and unanimously acquitted the defendant.
Wallis is the third News of the World staffer to be acquitted of phone-hacking alongside former editor Rebekah Brooks and managing editor Stuart Kuttner.
However seven former employees have been found guilty, with one, Andy Coulson, being sentenced to 18 months in prison for his role in the affair.
The main evidence against Wallis had come from another former journalist, Dan Evans. Evans had earlier admitted to a string of hacking offences at the Sunday Mirror and News of the World, turned "Queen's evidence" and gave testimony against Wallis. However the jury were not convinced and rejected Evans' claim that he had personally played recordings of intercepted voicemails to Wallis.
During the trial the jury heard a statement from Wallis claiming he was the victim of an “extraordinarily vindictive campaign of persecution”, and said his prosecution had only taken place because he was “the pre-eminent and most high-profile campaigner exposing the Metropolitan police’s abuse of the arrest process”.
In emotional testimony in court, Wallis said his ordeal had led to depression, ill-health and the break up of his marriage. The acquittal is sure to lead to further tabloid criticism of the police and prosecuting authorities.
The trial of Wallis marks the end of the legal aspects of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal which led to the closure of Britain's best selling newspaper and unprecedented scrutiny of the press through the Leveson inquiry.
After the verdict Wallis himself took to Twitter to thank his supporters with the simple message: "Thanks so so much to all those who stood by me - so grateful #StillStanding"
Thanks so so much to all those who stood by me - so grateful #StillStanding— Neil Wallis (@neilwallis1) July 1, 2015