Phone hacking: Andy Coulson sentenced to 18 months

Judge says Coulson ‘knew about it, he encouraged it when he should have stopped it’

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson has been jailed for 18 months after being found guilty of conspiring to hack phones following an eight-month trial. Photograph: Neil Hall/Reuters.

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson has been jailed for 18 months after being found guilty of conspiring to hack phones following an eight-month trial. Photograph: Neil Hall/Reuters.

Sat, Jul 5, 2014, 01:00

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson has been jailed for 18 months after being found guilty of conspiring to hack phones following an eight-month trial.

The 46-year-old, a former communications director to British prime minister David Cameron, was found guilty last week of conspiring to intercept voicemails at the now-defunct Sunday tabloid following an eight-month trial at the Old Bailey.

Coulson, from Charing in Kent, is joined in the dock by three former colleagues and private detective Glenn Mulcaire who all admitted their part in hacking before the trial started last year.

Judge Mr Justice Saunders 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.” The judge said Coulson clearly thought it was necessary to use phone hacking to maintain the newspaper’s “competitive edge”. And he said the delay in the News of the World telling police about the Milly Dowler voicemail in 2002 showed the motivation was to “take credit for finding her” and sell the maximum number of newspapers.

The judge said: “Mr Coulson has to take the major shame for the blame of phone hacking at the NotW. He knew about it, he encouraged it when he should have stopped it.”

There was no reaction from Coulson as the sentence was announced by the judge.

NotW 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 today 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. Mulcaire 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.

Coulson’s co-defendants Rebekah Brooks and managing editor Stuart Kuttner denied any wrongdoing and were cleared of all charges last week.

The prosecution had applied for £750,000 costs to be paid following the 139-day trial. The maximum sentence for phone hacking is two years in prison.

PA