The final act of the long running Phone Hacking Trial took place on Friday 4 July 2014 at the Central Criminal Court when Mr Justice Saunders passed sentenced on Andy Coulson and on the four defendants who had previously pleaded guilty to offences relating to the interception of voicemails.
In his sentencing remarks [pdf] the judge dealt with the background and how he had arrived at the sentences which he imposed. At the outset of his remarks he observed
It is not my job to pass judgment on, or make observations about, the relationship between the press, the police and the politicians. The Leveson Inquiry has done that. It is not my job to comment on press regulation; nor is it my job to comment on whether this trial has been worth the expense that has been incurred except perhaps I can observe that it is not necessarily correct to measure the value of a trial only in terms of the number of people convicted or the severity of the sentences imposed.
He pointed out that phone hacking had started by April 2002 and continued until August 2006 and that there were many thousands of phone hacks. The targets were politicians, celebrities, royalty, the friends of famous people and others who were not in the public eye.
He also drew attention to the consequences
“As a result of intercepting thousands of messages, the News of the World discovered information about famous and powerful people which ended up as front page exclusives and caused serious upset and distress to the subjects and to those close to them. An additional consequence was that, as nobody knew how the News of the World had got the stories, an undercurrent of distrust developed between friends and family who suspected each other of selling the information”
The true reason for phone hacking was, the Judge said, “to sell newspapers” in an increasingly competitive market
The sentences were as follows:
- Andy Coulson, 18 months imprisonment. Of him the Judge said that he had to “take the major share 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”.
- Greg Miskiw, a former news editor of the News of the World, was sentenced to 6 months’ imprisonment.
- Neville Thurlbeck, the former Chief Report of the News of the World, was also sentenced to 6 months imprisonment
- James Weatherup, another former News Editor, was sentenced to 4 months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months and 200 hours community service.
- Glenn Mulcaire was sentenced to 6 months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months and 200 hours community service.
The Phone Hacking Trial sentencing took place on the same day as the sentencing of entertainer Rolf Harris. As the invaluable Paperboy.com shows, only the Guardian and the Independent thought that imprisoning of a former national newspaper editor was sufficiently important to feature on the front page. The entertainer got the vote of most editors. Tim Fenton has a typically pithy comment on his Zelo Street blog.
The #pressreform blog has, as usual, a helpful wide range of links to reactions to the sentencing including the following:
- Hacked Off Responds to Phone-hacking Trial Sentencing – Hacked Off
- Andy Coulson Jailed for 18 Months For Conspiracy to Hack Phones – Guardian
- ‘UNFORGIVABLE’: Former News of the World Editor Gets 18 Months for Phone-hacking… – Press Gazette
- Former News of the World Reporter Reflects on the Hacking Trial: ‘I Was Often Asked to do Things I Couldn’t Square With My Own Conscience’ – Press Gazette