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UK phone-hacking sentences

July 4, 2014

Former editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson, has been sentenced to 18 months in jail for his role in a phone hacking scandal. The affair, which brought down the paper, has led to calls for more press regulation.

Andy Coulson - Former editor of the News of the World Andy Coulson arrives at the Old Bailey courthouse in London June 30, 2014. British Prime Minister David Cameron's ex-media chief Coulson will face a re-trial over whether he sanctioned illegal payments to a public official while editing a Rupert Murdoch tabloid, prosecutors said on Monday. REUTERS/Neil Hall
Image: Reuters

The 46-year-old was sentenced to 18 months in jail on Friday for his role in an illegal phone-hacking operation as editor of the British Sunday newspaper, News of the World.

Coulson - a former aide to British Prime Minister David Cameron - appeared for sentencing at London's Old Bailey court along with four ex-colleagues from the now-defunct Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid.

While the defendants said they did not know phone hacking was illegal, said the judge, they knew it was "morally wrong."

News International - the British arm of Murdoch's News Corp media empire - initially claimed that the hacking had been limited to rogue staff, with Coulson claiming to have known nothing about the hacking while he was editor between 2003 and 2007.

However, Coulson was convicted on one count of conspiring with others to illegally access voicemails.

Growing chorus of discontent

Months after he resigned from the newspaper, Coulson became director of communications for Cameron's Conservative Party, but had to stand down when the phone-hacking scandal came to light.

The extent of the affair came to light between 2009 and 2011, with an increasing number of people - including major celebrities and public figures - complaining they had been hacked. Among the victims were princes William and Harry, James Bond actor Daniel Craig and model Kate Moss.

The scandal generated its greatest outrage in July 2011, when it came to light that the newspaper had hacked the voicemails of murdered teenager Milly Dowler and her parents. The News of the World was closed later that year.

Lighter sentences for co-workers

The others sentenced included the newspaper's former editor Greg Miskiw and chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck - who were jailed for six months - and both journalist James Weatherup and private detective Glenn Mulcaire who received suspended sentences.

Coulson now also faces retrial over charges that he made illegal payments to a police officer to obtain phone details of the British royal family.

He was found guilty of the phone hacking conspiracy on June 24 - the same date that Rebekah Brooks, a chief executive of News International who served as editor of the News of the World from 2000 to 2003, was cleared of all charges along with her husband and three other people.

The scandal led to the judge-led Leveson Inquiry, which has recommended the creation of a strong press watchdog backed by government regulation.

rc/ kms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)