Court 12 at the Old Bailey was packed this morning, as Mr Justice Saunders arrived to sentence five of the six who had either pleaded guilty, or, in the case of Andy Coulson, had been found guilty by a jury of his peers. Greg Miskiw, James Weatherup, Glenn Mulcaire and Neville “stylish masturbator” Thurlbeck completed the line-up. Dan Evans will be sentenced separately.
Saunders told a hushed court that “my function is to pass sentences that reflect the criminality of the defendants”. He expected ‘outrage’ from those who think he should exceed maximum sentences, or those who think it's an attack on the press. He wanted the comment to be informed, but would not comment on press regulation, or relations with police, or the costs of the trial.
Some hacking targets were well known, but others were merely work colleagues. Some were hacked merely by assumption they were related to celebrities, like Laura Rooney. And whether the hacking was to stand up stories or those concerned were using the press for their own ends, the defendants knew that hacking was against the PCC code and was morally wrong. Ignorance of the law was no excuse.
The Screws had delayed telling the Police what it knew about Millie Dowler, and that was unforgiveable. They acted not in her interests, but in their own: the motivation was to sell more newspapers. Coulson and the others were prepared to use illegal means to increase market share, to maintain their competitive edge. Phone hacking expanded significantly under Coulson’s watch.
Then came the sentencing: those who had pleaded guilty would receive a third reduction in return. Some of the remorse that had been expressed, Saunders decided, was more “getting caught” than true remorse. The irony of investigative journalists failing to expose what was going on in their own back yard was noted. And then came the first to be sentenced, Andy Coulson.
Young Dave’s former chief spinmeister was sent to prison for 18 months. Greg Miskiw and Neville Thurlbeck were both sentenced to six months. James Weatherup was given a suspended sentence of four months. “You are truly the lucky one” Saunders told Mulcaire, who was handed a suspended six month sentence, plus 200 hours’ community service. Coulson, Miskiw and Thurlbeck were taken down.
Glenn Mulcaire, having served his time previously for hacking the Royals, was able to walk out through the main entrance. Saunders told that all present “owe a huge debt of gratitude to the court staff”. And so ended the Hacking Trial. There may be more trials of other journalists to come. But at the Old Bailey, justice was seen to be done, and one unhappy chapter in newspaper history was finally closed.
And this, and many other posts out there, are thanks to Peter Jukes’ live Tweeting.