Last week's acquittal of Rebekah Brooks was spun by the Murdoch press as vindicating the News of the World (NoW). The Sun, its sister weekday paper which started a Sunday edition to replace the disgraced rag, claimed the verdicts were a "Great Day for the Red Tops". That was a reference to both Brooks' hair and the down market tabloid size newspapers in the UK - most of the "broadsheets" now print in that format. The boast was an attempt to cover up the one trial conviction, of former editor and Cameron spin doctor Andy Coulson and the fact that five others had already entered guilty pleas before trial.
Today Coulson and the others were sentenced. He received the heaviest sentence as the others' had their early pleas taken into account. The sentences for the crime of conspiracy to intercept communications are:
Coulson, 46, of Canterbury - 18 monthsMulcaire had previously served a six month prison sentence after a conviction for phone hacking in 2007. Earlier this week at the sentencing hearing, it was revealed he has been made bankrupt for failing to pay tax on his earnings from the NoW.
Former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, 52, of Esher, Surrey - six months
Former news editor Greg Miskiw, 64, of Leeds - six months
Former reporter James Weatherup, 58, of Brentwood, Essex - four-month suspended sentence
Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, 43, of Sutton, Surrey - six-month suspended sentence
Mulcaire - who faced four counts - and Weatherup also received 200 hours of community service.
The scandal continues as Mulcaire and his employers may face further charges after he used his hacking techniques to obtain the details of the new identities of four convicted offenders who had been placed in a witness protection scheme. The NoW had printed the details of a notorious killer of a toddler (who was himself under age at the time). Details were exposed in the BBC program Panorama last week. In that a former Metropolitan Police deputy commissioner (not an elected post) and now Liberal Democrat peer, Lord [Brian] Paddick told them:
"The witness protection scheme is a very expensive operation to give people who've been convicted of very serious offences and people who are very vulnerable witnesses... a completely new identity, so they can have a completely fresh start.It is illegal to reveal the details of those in the scheme and there is a whiff of "something rotten in the state of Denmark" that the senior offices in the Met at the time failed to refer either Mulcaire or the newspaper to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
"For that information to get into the hands of journalists is potentially putting people's lives at risk.
Murdochgate just keeps on giving.
It looks like my last paragraph was prescient!
The Crown Prosecution Service is considering whether to charge more News of the World staff in relation to phone hacking, it has been confirmed.A comment on BBC radio news indicated that these possible charges related to the NoW Features department, a separate office from the newsroom where those sentenced today worked.
Police files on eight suspects, who cannot be named for legal reasons, have been handed to the CPS for charging advice. The files emerged from a spin-off investigation from Scotland Yard's Operation Weeting, the inquiry that led to the conviction of Andy Coulson and four others at the Old Bailey last month.