The News of the World’s former deputy editor tearfully accused police and prosecutors of a “vicious, politically driven” campaign against the press after he was cleared of being part of the phone-hacking plot.
Neil Wallis, who was Andy Coulson’s right-hand man between 2003 and 2007, was on trial accused of being part of the scandal which led to the Sunday tabloid shutting down in July 2011.
An Old Bailey jury deliberated for four days before finding 64-year-old Mr Wallis, of Chiswick, west London, not guilty of conspiring to hack phones.
As he walked free from court, Mr Wallis said the case had “ruined” his life, as he deflected blame from his old boss Coulson and heaped it on to Operation Weeting detectives and the Crown Prosecution Service.
He said “Four years. Four years after I was arrested, I finally walk out of here a free man. It’s cost me and my family most of our life savings.
“It’s ruined my life all because of a vicious, politically driven campaign against the press launched by (former director of public prosecutions) Keir Starmer and (his then principal legal adviser) Alison Levitt.
“This is the culmination of a political drive by the police and the CPS. It’s a disgrace.”
Mr Wallis went on to thank his legal team, before adding: “I just want to say I will never get over this.
“I’ve been virtually unable to work for four years.
“It’s taken my health, my family’s health and all because of a campaign against journalists.”
Asked by a broadcaster if he blamed Coulson for landing him in the dock, he replied: “I believe the people who got me into this situation were the CPS and Operation Weeting detectives who, when I was arrested, talked to me about Milly Dowler – basic detective research would have shown I was not even working.”
Mr Wallis is the last of the journalists from the tabloid to face legal action over the hacking it deployed in the hunt for exclusive stories on celebrities, royals and politicians.
The prosecution said it was inconceivable that he did not know what was going on at the News of the World since his boss and a number of other journalists in the newsroom had all been convicted of their involvement.
Among the high-profile figures targeted by the News of the World were Princes William and Harry during their training at Sandhurst.
Former home secretary David Blunkett’s secret affair with a married woman was exposed through hacking, as was actress Sienna Miller’s alleged fling with James Bond star Daniel Craig.
On hearing the verdict, Wallis tweeted: “Thanks so so much to all those who stood by me – so grateful. Still standing.”
After speaking to reporters outside court, Mr Wallis left saying he was “going off to have a drink”.