Andy Coulson, the former editor of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World and one-time spin doctor to British Prime Minister David Cameron, has been jailed for 18 months for his role in the phone-hacking scandal.
The sentence passed by a judge at the Old Bailey court in London caps a stunning fall from grace for 46-year-old Coulson, who once enjoyed access to the heights of the British establishment.
Four former colleagues at the now-defunct tabloid received shorter sentences for hacking the mobile phone voicemails of thousands of royals, celebrities and politicians in what prosecutors called a “criminal enterprise”.
Cameron – who was forced to make a public apology after his former communications director Coulson was convicted last week at the end of an eight-month trial – said on Friday that the sentence showed “no one is above the law”.
Murdoch shut the News of the World in July 2011 amid public outrage after it emerged that Britain’s biggest selling paper had illegally accessed the voicemails of a murdered schoolgirl.
Judge John Saunders said Coulson was receiving the longest jail term because of his senior role at the paper.
“Mr Coulson has to take the major share of the blame for phone hacking at the News of the World. He knew about it, he encouraged it when he should have stopped it,” the judge said.
Former News of the World news editor Greg Miskiw and chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck were each sentenced to six months imprisonment for phone hacking.
Journalist James Weatherup and private detective Glenn Mulcaire each received suspended sentences and were ordered to perform community service.
All four had previously pleaded guilty.
Rebekah Brooks, the former head of Murdoch’s British newspaper arm and editor of the News of the World from 2000 to 2003, was cleared of all charges at the trial, along with her husband and three other people.