Rupert Murdoch’s closed title News of the World’s former editor Andy Coulson and his three associates have been jailed for conspiracy to hack phones.
Coulson, 46, who went on to become director of communications for Prime Minister David Cameron, was found guilty at the Old Bailey last week, BBC reported.
He was one of four ex-journalists at the tabloid to be sentenced, along with private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
Five defendants, including former News International chief Rebekah Brooks, were cleared of all charges last week.
The sentences, all for conspiracy to unlawfully intercept communications, were:
- Coulson, 46, of Canterbury – 18 months
- Former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, 52, of Esher, Surrey – six months
- Former news editor Greg Miskiw, 64, of Leeds – six months
- Former reporter James Weatherup, 58, of Brentwood, Essex – four-month suspended sentence
- Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, 43, of Sutton, Surrey – six-month suspended sentence
Mulcaire – who faced four counts – and Weatherup also received 200 hours of community service. Coulson was being taken to Belmarsh Prison in south-east London when he left the Old Bailey, the BBC understands.
Asked about the jailing of his former communications chief, the prime minister, who has apologised for hiring him, said: “What it says is that it’s right that justice should be done and that no one is above the law – as I’ve always said.”
Downing Street later said Mr Cameron had not spoken to Coulson since the guilty verdict. Coulson had denied the charges against him but was found guilty of plotting to intercept voicemails between 2000 and 2006. His lawyer had argued his client did not know the hacking on his watch was illegal, but the judge, Mr Justice Saunders, said “ignorance of the law” provided no mitigation.
The spin doctor, who once advised a British prime minister on image and presentation, displayed no reaction when sentence was passed, other than to swallow hard and glance at the public gallery. The tabloid editor who hacked, and who escaped justice once to work in Downing Street, has got his comeuppance.
Sentencing the five men, Mr Justice Saunders said it was not his role to pass judgement on the relationship between the police, press and the government. This had been the job of the Leveson Inquiry, he said.
What was relevant, he said, was the amount of hacking and the period over which it occurred.
Hacking had picked up “intensely personal” messages, the judge said, causing “serious distress to the subjects”.
He referred to the hacking of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone, saying the News of the World’s delay in telling police about voicemails had been “unforgiveable”.
Those working on the paper, the judge said, “were using their resources to try to find Milly Dowler”.
He added: “The fact that they delayed telling the police of the contents of the voicemail demonstrates that their true motivation was not to act in the best interests of the child but to get credit for finding her and thereby sell the maximum number of newspapers.”
The judge said he was in no doubt Coulson had been under “considerable pressure” in the job of editor, and that he “clearly thought it was necessary” to use hacking to maintain the paper’s competitive edge.
Coulson had to take the “major share of the blame for the phone hacking at the News of the World”, he told the court.