Former editor of the News of the World Andy Coulson arrives at the Old Bailey courthouse in London. (Reuters Photo)
Andy Coulson, the high profile former editor of News of the World and former spin doctor of Prime Minister David Cameron was on Friday jailed for 18 months for conspiring to hack phones as part of a newroom culture that prosecutors called ‘thoroughly criminal’.
Coulson, 46, who was found guilty last week, must serve at least nine months in jail before he will be considered for parole. The longest sentence for phone-hacking is two years. He was given the severest of four sentences delivered on Friday and left the Old Bailey court as a convict escorted by guards.
Judge Saunders said, "All the journalists in the dock are distinguished. There was no need for hacking. Their achievements now count for nothing. Coulson has to take the major shame for the blame of phone hacking at the News of the World. He knew about it, he encouraged it when he should have stopped it."
There is likely to be more bad news for Coulson, as he faces a re-trial on the charge of purchasing royal phone directories from the police during his time as editor of the mass-circulation tabloid (now defunct).
During the recent trial, the prosecution said that Coulson and the news editors between them had "utterly corrupted" the News of the World and turned it into a "thoroughly criminal enterprise".
Prosecutor Andrew Edis said the phone-hacking victims of the Sunday tabloid "read like a Who's Who of Britain in the first five years of this century". Coulson had consistently denied any knowledge of phone hacking as the editor of the tabloid.
Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who carried out phone-hacking at the behest of News of the World, was given a six-month suspended sentence. He had earlier been convicted and jailed for the offence.
Former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck and ex-news editor Greg Miskiw were jailed for six months, while former reporter James Weatherup was given a four-month suspended sentence.
Victims of phone-hacking included members of the royal family, celebrities and crime victims. Other ‘dark arts’ were also used to extract information that was then used in sensational news stories in the tabloid.
After Coulson was convicted of phone-hacking last week, Cameron apologised for hiring him and said he would not have done so had he known about his actions at the tabloid.
Coulson was appointed Conservative Party director of communications in July 2007, six months after he stepped down as editor of the News of the World. After Cameron became prime minister in 2010, Coulson was appointed his director of communications.