Journalist jailed and editor resigns over phone hacking

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Andy Coulson, the editor of the News of the World, resigned from his job last night after the newspaper's royal editor was jailed for four months at the Old Bailey for plotting to hack into Royal aides' telephone messages.

Andy Coulson, the editor of the News of the World, resigned last night saying he took full responsibility after his royal editor, Clive Goodman, was jailed for four months at the Old Bailey for plotting to hack into Royal aides' telephone messages.

Mr Coulson, 39, who had been editor since January 2003, formally resigned two weeks ago but delayed his departure until the completion of court proceedings. He said: "I have decided that the time has come for me to take ultimate responsibility for the events around the Clive Goodman case. As I've said before, his actions were entirely wrong and I deeply regret that they happened on my watch.

"I also feel strongly that when the News of the World calls those in public life to account on behalf of its readers, it must have its own house in order."

Mr Coulson's replacement was announced as Colin Myler, a former editor of the Daily Mirror.

Goodman was accused of "low conduct" that was "reprehensible in the extreme" for intercepting more than 600 messages, including some from Prince William. Mr Justice Gross told Goodman: "This case is not about press freedom. It is about grave, inexcusable and illegal invasion of privacy."

He sentenced Goodman's co-defendant, private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, 36, to six months for his role in the plot.

The judge said the "intrinsically serious and unattractive nature" of the offence meant immediate custody was inevitable. "Such sustained criminal conduct should be marked by a loss of liberty," he said.

Goodman stood impassive as the sentence was passed, glancing at his wife. The judge told both men: "Neither journalist or private security consultant are above the law. What you did was plainly on the wrong side of the line."

David Perry QC, prosecuting, said Mulcaire had a lucrative contract with the News of the World ­ worth £104,988 annually ­ for his " research and information services".

He was also given £12,300 for stories relating to Prince Harry, his girlfriend Chelsy Davy, and the Duchess of York, the court heard.

"The defendants' motivation was profit and personal gain and their conduct amounted to gross invasion of privacy and the abuse of the public telephone system," Mr Perry said.

He said that between November 2005 and June last year the men gained access to messages on the mobile phones of three aides. Mr Perry said Mulcaire, who has also pleaded guilty to five more charges involving well-known figures, accessed other voice-mail messages between February and June last year.

Mulcaire, a former footballer, admitted intercepting messages for the publicist Max Clifford, the footballer Sol Campbell's agent Skylet Andrew, the chairman of the Professional Footballers Association Gordon Taylor, the MP Simon Hughes and the model Elle Macpherson.

Mr Perry said the men used mobile numbers and secret codes used by mobile phone network operators to break into the aides' voice-mails.

Lawyers on behalf of Goodman and Mulcaire had earlier apologised to the Prince of Wales, Princes William and Harry, and their household for a gross invasion of their privacy.

The conspiracy charge relates to intercepted messages on the telephones of the Prince of Wales's aide Helen Asprey, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, the former SAS officer who is private secretary to Princes William and Harry, and Charles's communications secretary Paddy Harverson.

The court heard the men made 609 calls to the aides' mobile phones. Of those, 487 were made by Goodman and 122 by Mulcaire. Mr Perry said the calls ranged from a few seconds to several minutes.

They used a combination of mobile and landline telephones to hack into the voice-mail boxes, including phones at Goodman's office at News International in Wapping, east London, and his home in Putney, south-west London, the court heard.

Ms Asprey first noticed something was wrong in December 2005 when new messages left on her phone were shown as old. Mr Lowther-Pinkerton and Mr Harverson noticed the same problem with their phones at around the same time.

The court heard Mulcaire sent Goodman text messages with the private PIN codes for the various phones "to enable Mr Goodman himself to gain access".

Police searching Goodman's office at News International discovered documents revealing details of Mr Harverson's codes.

Both he and Mulcaire were arrested on 8 August last year ­ Goodman at home in Putney, and Mulcaire at home in Cheam, Surrey. They were charged the following day with conspiracy to intercept communications and a number of substantive charges.

Mr Perry said Mulcaire ran a company called Nine Consultancy on an industrial estate in Sutton and was listed as its director of operations.

Ironically, the company had offered a service protecting clients from media intrusion.