Andy Coulson jailed for 18 months for phone hacking

Disgraced Number 10 spin doctor Andy Coulson was jailed for 18 months today for plotting to hack phones while he was in charge of the News of the World.

The 46-year-old father of three 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, was 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.

The paper's former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck was also also jailed for six months along with former news editor Greg Miskiw.

Former assistant news editor James Weatherup was given a four-month suspended sentence and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire received a six-month suspended sentence. Mulcaire, who was paid around half a million pounds by the NotW, was first convicted of phone hacking with royal reporter Clive Goodman in 2006.

The sentencing comes exactly three years to the day since it was revealed that the NotW had hacked into the voicemails of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

West Bromwich East MP Tom Watson, raised the matter in Parliament and was a leading member of a committee of MPs that heard evidence from NotW owner News International executives.

Mr Watson said: "The conspiracy to hack phones was organised from the top. They lied to their readers and they lied to Parliament. Justice has been done today."

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."

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."

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