* Cameron says sentence shows "no one is above the law"
* Newspaper shuttered after phone-hacking revelations
* Coulson sentenced to 18 months in jail
(Adds quotes, former journalists' comments, background)
By Michael Holden
LONDON, July 4 British Prime Minister David
Cameron's former media chief Andy Coulson was jailed for 18
months on Friday for encouraging widespread phone-hacking by
journalists to obtain scoops at the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid
Coulson, editor of the now defunct News of the World
newspaper from 2003-2007, was convicted last week of conspiracy
to intercept voicemails on mobile phones following a
high-profile eight-month trial at London's Old Bailey court.
"What this says is that it's right that justice should be
done and that no one is above the law," said Cameron, who has
apologised for having hired Coulson.
Opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband has criticised Cameron
for bringing a "criminal into the heart of Downing Street".
The maximum sentence the 46-year-old Coulson could have
faced was two years but the judge said he had taken into account
signs of good character outside his career.
Coulson showed no emotion as the sentence was read out in a
packed Court 12 at London's Old Bailey court.
"Mr Coulson ... has to take the major blame for the phone
hacking at the News of the World," judge John Saunders said. "He
knew about it and encouraged it when he should have stopped it."
The sentence was passed exactly three years to the day that
the Guardian newspaper published revelations that staff on the
paper had hacked into the voicemails of murdered schoolgirl
That sparked widespread outrage across the country and
prompted Murdoch to close the 168-year-old tabloid just days
later. It emerged that the newspaper had listened into messages
of thousands of targets - from movie stars to crime victims to
government ministers - to obtain information for scoops.
The judge said Coulson must have known about the failure of
the paper to immediately tell police about Dowler's voicemails,
an act he described as "unforgivable".
Coulson, found guilty of conspiracy to illegally intercept
voicemails on mobile phones, was the only one of seven
defendants to be convicted following a long-running trial, one
of the most expensive of its kind in British legal history.
Rebekah Brooks, his predecessor as News of the World editor
who later ran News Corp.'s British newspaper arm, was
among those found not guilty of phone-hacking and other
allegations. The two had been lovers for part of the time they
worked together, according to testimony that emerged during the
Three ex-senior journalists from the paper who pleaded
guilty before the trial began were also sentenced on Friday.
Assistant Editor Greg Miskiw and Chief Reporter Neville
Thurlbeck were given six months in jail, while one-time News
Editor James Weatherup received a four month suspended prison
Glenn Mulcaire, a former private investigator who had
already gone to jail for earlier hacking offences on behalf of
the paper, was given a six month suspended sentence after
admitting further crimes including tapping Dowler's phone.
Phone-hacking became public knowledge in 2006 when the
tabloid's former royal editor Clive Goodman and Mulcaire
admitted they had hacked the phones of royal aides. The paper
said at the time Goodman was a rogue reporter acting alone.
Coulson quit the paper after they were jailed, denying that
he had knowledge of their illegal activity. Within months he
began working for Cameron in opposition and joined him in
Downing Street after the 2010 election.
Coulson resigned after revelations in 2011 that the hacking
at his former newspaper had been much more expansive than the
paper had previously admitted.
Former staff who worked on the paper have told Reuters
hacking was carried out in a haphazard fashion, targeting
whoever happened to be in the headlines at the time.
Coulson's trial heard how a woman called Laura Rooney was
hacked simply because she had the same surname as the England
soccer player Wayne Rooney.
The criminal action against Coulson is still not over. He
faces a re-trial after the jury failed to reach a verdict over
allegations he authorised Goodman to make illegal payments to
police officers to obtain the telephone directories of Britain's
Prosecutors are also considering whether to instigate
corporate charges against News Corp.'s British paper business.
It has said it has changed the way it operates and has
apologised to hacking victims.
(Editing by Kate Holton, Peter Graff and Philippa Fletcher)