The now-defunct Screws once referred to low-security Hollesley Bay jail in Suffolk as a “holiday camp”. Now that one of its less than illustrious former editors has done a stretch there, it would be interesting to know if the modern-day Sun on Sunday is still of that opinion. It would be yet more interesting to know what Rupe’s downmarket troops think of his early release.
While much press coverage was devoted to Andy Coulson’s incarceration in Belmarsh Prison, telling that he should not be banged up with all those proper criminals, and then have to share a cell with Neville “stylish masturbator” Thurlbeck, they all went quiet when he was transferred to a place which had been the target of so much tabloid scorn in previous years.
And what none of the Fourth Estate is complaining about right now is that the man who Young Dave allowed into Downing Street, but who had been pivotal to the industrial-scale phone hacking at the Screws, is going to be released well before the half-way point in his eighteen-month sentence, even when there is his looming trial on perjury charges in Scotland to consider.
The Telegraph went with the simple and prosaic: “Andy Coulson to be freed from jail on electronic tag ... Former Downing Street communications chief and editor of the News of the World will be released after serving 20 weeks of an 18 month sentence”. No shock horror at the leniency, then? Nine months would have been halfway through the sentence, remember.
How has the ever watchful and judgmental Daily Mail reported the news? “Andy Coulson out of prison on Friday: Disgraced former News of the World editor will wear electronic tag after serving less than five months of 18-month sentence” they tell, which at least confirms how little of the sentence he will serve. And they mention the “holiday camp” jibe, as does the HuffPost UK.
What the Mail also does, though, is to explain why Coulson is getting out after less than five months: “His sentence has been calculated under a complicated set of rules known as the Home Detention Curfew Scheme. This allows non-violent inmates sentenced to 18 months or more to spend the last 135 days or less at home, wearing a tag”. Shame that it takes a former editor being jailed to tell readers that.
But the Mail does not accompany its coverage with a judgmental editorial telling readers how soft the prison system has become, and nor will any of its pundits be condemning Coulson’s early release any time soon – certainly not the likes of Richard Littlejohn. What a change from politicians like Jeffrey Archer getting banged up in the same prison.
Anyone would think there was a different set of rules for journalists. Once more.