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Friday 29 August 2014

Coulson gets 18 months for plotting phone hacks

Martin Evans

Published 05/07/2014 | 02:30

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Former Editor of the News of the World Andy Coulson arrives for the sentencing at the Old Bailey court house in London. Reuters
Former Editor of the News of the World Andy Coulson arrives for the sentencing at the Old Bailey court house in London. Reuters

DAVID Cameron's former communications chief Andy Coulson has been jailed for 18 months after being found guilty of plotting to hack phones.

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The former 'News of the World' editor and Downing Street handler appeared at the Old Bailey alongside four former colleagues who were also sentenced.

Last week he was convicted of one count of conspiracy to intercept communications following an eight-month trial.

Trial judge Mr Justice Saunders said: "Mr Coulson has to take the major blame for the shame of phone hacking at the 'News of the World'."

The judge told the defendants: "I do not accept ignorance of the law provides any mitigation.

"The laws of protection are given to the rich, famous and powerful as to all."

Coulson's imprisonment signifies a spectacular fall from grace for the man who was once one of the British Prime Minister's most trusted aides.

During the trial, which saw all the other defendants cleared, the jury heard how phone hacking was endemic at the 'News of the World' under his editorship.

Journalists at the now defunct Sunday tabloid listened in to the voicemails of thousands of people ranging from politicians and celebrities to other journalists and even victims of crime.

The scandal caused national revulsion when in July 2011 it was revealed that the paper had even hacked the mobile phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

Coulson still faces further legal action after the Crown Prosecution Service announced there would be a retrial on charges of conspiracy to bribe public officials.

The decision came after the original jury failed to reach verdicts on four charges against him and former royal editor Clive Goodman.

'News of the World' news editor Greg Miskiw (64) from Leeds; chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck (52) of Esher, Surrey; and news editor James Weatherup (58) of Brentwood in Essex, were also sentenced yesterday after all admitted one general count of conspiring together and with others to illegally access voicemails between October 2000 and August 2006.

Miskiw and Thurlbeck were each jailed for six months.

Weatherup was jailed for four months, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to do 200 hours' unpaid community work.

Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who hacked the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler among others, was jailed for six months, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to do 200 hours' unpaid community work.

According to Mulcaire's notes, Miskiw tasked him 1,500 times, Thurlbeck 261 times and Weatherup 157 times, the court heard.

Mr Justice Saunders told them: "All the defendants that I have to sentence, save for Mr Mulcaire, are distinguished journalists who had no need to behave as they did to be successful.

"They all achieved a great deal without resorting to the unlawful invasion of other people's privacy. Those achievements will now count for nothing.

"I accept that their reputations and their careers are irreparably damaged."

Weatherup and Mulcaire both declined to comment as they left the courtroom.

Irish Independent

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