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LONDON – The judge in the phone hacking trial on Friday sentenced former News of the World editor Andy Coulson to 18 months in prison.
Late last month, a jury found Coulson, who also used to work as communications director for Prime Minister David Cameron, guilty on a charge of conspiring to hack phones while working at the tabloid that used to be part of the U.K. newspaper arm of Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corp. before it was shuttered amid the hacking scandal in the summer of 2011.
Coulson, 46, faced up to two years in prison, but his lawyer earlier this week argued that circumstances “do not justify the maximum penalty,” according to the BBC. He argued that Coulson did not know that hacking was illegal.
Three other former News of the World staffers and one private investigator who hacked phones for the paper also pleaded guilty to hacking and also received their sentences Friday.
They are former news desk editors Greg Miskiw, James Weatherup and Neville Thurlbeck, as well as Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator who was used for hacking. Miskiw and Thurlbeck were sentenced to six months each, Weatherup got a suspended sentence of four months, and Mulcaire was given a suspended sentence of six months. Mulcaire and Weatherup each must do 200 hours of unpaid community service.
Dan Evans, another former News of the World staffer who has also admitted to hacking will be sentenced separately.
Meanwhile, the prosecution in the phone-hacking trial recently announced a retrial of Coulson and former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman on two bribery counts after the jury failed to reach a verdict on these charges.
The jury cleared several others, led by former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks, of all charges. Brooks was found not guilty of being part of a phone hacking conspiracy, one count of conspiracy to pay public officials and two counts of conspiracy to “pervert the course of justice.” The judge had previously instructed the jury to find her not guilty of another bribery charge.
The jury found Brooks’ husband Charlie, former Brooks assistant Cheryl Carter and former News International security expert Mark Hanna not guilty of conspiring to “pervert the course of justice.” Plus, it cleared Stuart Kuttner, former managing editor of the tabloid, of a charge of conspiring to hack voicemail messages.
Other trials that are part of the broader phone-hacking investigation are also scheduled to take place.
“The true reason for the phone hacking was to sell newspapers,” the judge said in his sentencing remarks Friday, which were published online. “In an increasingly competitive market, the editor wanted to make sure that it was his paper that got the stories, which would create the biggest headlines and sell the most newspapers, and he, and others at the newspaper, were prepared to use illegal means to do that.” Coulson and others passed “pressure down to their subordinates,” he added.
Concluded the judge: “Mr. Coulson, on the jury’s verdict, has to take the major share of the blame for the phone hacking at the News of the World.”
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