Coulson jailed for 18 months but will be freed in January

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Disgraced No 10 spin doctor Andy Coulson was jailed for 18 months today for plotting to hack phones while he was in charge of the News of the World – and he’ll be out in 6 months.

The 46-year-old father of three was found guilty last week of conspiring to intercept voicemails at the now-defunct Sunday tabloid following an eight-month trial at the Old Bailey.

Coulson, from Charing, in Kent, was joined in the dock by three former colleagues and private detective Glenn Mulcaire who all admitted their part in hacking before the trial started last year.

Judge Mr Justice Saunders told the defendants: “I do not accept ignorance of the law provides any mitigation.

“The laws of protection are given to the rich, famous and powerful as to all.”

The judge said Coulson clearly thought it was necessary to use phone hacking to maintain the newspaper’s “competitive edge”.

And he said the delay in the News of the World telling police about the Milly Dowler voicemail in 2002 showed the motivation was to “take credit for finding her” and sell the maximum number of newspapers.

The judge said: “Mr Coulson has to take the major shame for the blame of phone hacking at the NotW. He knew about it, he encouraged it when he should have stopped it.”

There was no reaction from Coulson as he was jailed by the judge.

NotW news editor Greg Miskiw, 64, from Leeds; chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, 52, of Esher, Surrey; and news editor James Weatherup, 58, of Brentwood in Essex, were also sentenced today after all admitted one general count of conspiring together and with others to illegally access voicemails between October 2000 and August 2006.

Miskiw and Thurlbeck were each jailed for six months.

Weatherup was jailed for four months, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to do 200 hours unpaid community work.

Mulcaire was jailed for six months, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to do 200 hours unpaid community work.

According to Mulcaire’s notes, Miskiw tasked him 1,500 times, Thurlbeck 261 times and Weatherup 157 times, the court heard.

Mr Justice Saunders told them: “All the defendants that I have to sentence, save for Mr Mulcaire are distinguished journalists who had no need to behave as they did to be successful.

“They all achieved a great deal without resorting to the unlawful invasion of other people’s privacy. Those achievements will now count for nothing.

“I accept that their reputations and their careers are irreparably damaged.”

Weatherup and Mulcaire both declined to comment as they left the courtroom.

Mulcaire, who was paid around half a million pounds by the NotW, was first convicted of phone hacking with royal reporter Clive Goodman in 2006.

Following the renewed police investigation into the full extent of hacking, he admitted three more counts of conspiring to hack phones plus a fourth count of hacking the voicemail of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler in 2002 – an act which eventually led to the closure of the NotW in 2011.

While Coulson was in charge, the NotW was hacking a host of royals, celebrities, politicians and ordinary members of the public on an industrial scale amid intense competition for exclusive stories, the trial heard.

Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC said the Sunday tabloid was “utterly corrupt” and “became a thoroughly criminal enterprise”.

The list of victims whose private lives were invaded read like a “Who’s Who of Britain in the first five years of the century”, he said.

In mitigation, Coulson’s lawyer Timothy Langdale QC said at the time, no one in the newspaper industry realised phone hacking was illegal and the company lawyers did not even tell him.

Earlier this week, Thurlbeck’s lawyer said Coulson had not been truthful in his evidence and he never ordered his client to stop phone hacking when he told him about David Blunkett’s voicemail to Kimberly Quinn in 2004.

Hugh Davies QC said: “No such disapproval of the practice was given by Mr Coulson. There was no direction to stop.”

Weatherup’s lawyer said phone hacking was “endemic” at the NotW and ultimate responsibility lay at more “senior editorial levels”.

Charles Bott QC said: “We have gone from rogue reporter to rogue reporter-plus – but neither of those reflect the truth. Phone hacking was condoned and encouraged by senior managers at the NotW for the simple reason it was an expedient and cost-effective way to obtain information.”

Miskiw’s lawyer Trevor Burke QC asked the judge to take account of his early guilty plea and the fact he had expressed “genuine remorse”.

Gavin Millar QC, for Mulcaire, said his client had already been jailed for phone hacking in 2007 and questioned whether he should be punished again.

Since he served his time, the married 43-year-old from Sutton in south London had not only faced bankruptcy but also become the “personification” of the NotW scandal in the media, he said.

Coulson’s co-defendants Rebekah Brooks and managing editor Stuart Kuttner denied any wrongdoing and were cleared of all charges last week.

The prosecution had applied for £750,000 costs to be paid following the 139-day trial. The maximum sentence for phone hacking is two years in prison.

Mark Leech, the editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisons in England and Wales said Coulson will be out in the New Year.
“Andy Coulson was sentenced to 18 months of which he will serve half and, additionally, he is eligible for release three months earlier than that on Home Detention Curfew – so he’ll be released in six months or around 4th January.”

McShane Jailed For Expenses Fraud

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Disgraced former Labour minister Denis MacShane has been sentenced to six months at the Old Bailey after admitting making bogus expense claims amounting to nearly £13,000.

The ex-MP previously pleaded guilty to false accounting by filing 19 fake receipts for “research and translation” services.

MacShane, 65, used the money to fund a series of trips to Europe, including one to judge a literary competition in Paris.

His guilty plea followed more than four years of scrutiny into his use of Commons allowances.

Flanked by two security officers, MacShane, wearing a dark suit with a blue striped tie and glasses, said “Cheers” as the sentence was delivered, before adding, “Quelle surprise” as he was led from the dock.

Mr Justice Sweeney told MacShane his dishonesty had been “considerable and repeated many times over a long period”.

“You have no one to blame but yourself,” the judge said.

The judge said MacShane had shown “a flagrant breach of trust” in “our priceless democratic system”.

“The deception used was calculated and designed,” he said.

He told MacShane he must serve half his sentence in prison and was ordered to pay costs of £1,500 within two months.

Parliamentary authorities began looking at his claims in 2009 when the wider scandal engulfed Westminster, and referred him to Scotland Yard within months.

But the principle of parliamentary privilege meant detectives were not given access to damning correspondence with the standards commissioner in which MacShane detailed how signatures on receipts from the European Policy Institute (EPI) had been faked.

The body was controlled by MacShane and the general manager’s signature was not genuine. One message, dated October 2009, said he drew funds from the EPI so he could serve on a book judging panel in Paris.

It was not until after police dropped the case last year that the cross-party Standards Committee published the evidence in a report that recommended an unprecedented 12-month suspension from the House.

MacShane, 65, who served as Europe minister under Tony Blair, resigned as MP for Rotherham last November before the punishment could be imposed.

Police then reopened their inquiry in the light of the fresh information and he was charged in May – even though the letters are still not thought to be admissible in court.

The offence of false accounting covered 19 ”knowingly misleading” receipts that MacShane filed between January 2005 and January 2008.

The court heard that MacShane incurred “genuine expenses” for similar amounts which he chose to recoup by dishonest false accounting rather than through legitimate claims.

Mr Sweeney said: “However chaotic your general paperwork was, there was deliberate, oft repeated and prolonged dishonesty over a period of years – involving a flagrant breach of trust and consequent damage to Parliament, with correspondingly reduced confidence in our priceless democratic system and the process by which it is implemented and we are governed.”

The judge said he had considered a number of mitigating features, including MacShane’s guilty plea, and that the offences were “not committed out of greed or for personal profit”.

MacShane had suffered “a long period of public humiliation” and carried out the offences “at a time of turmoil” in his personal life, Mr Sweeney said.

The court heard that MacShane and his wife divorced in 2003, his daughter Clare was killed in an accident in March 2004, his mother died in 2006 and his former partner, newsreader Carol Barnes – Clare’s mother – died in 2008.

The judge also considered his previous good character and that the money had been paid back.

The court heard that MacShane submitted four of his false claims while serving as Europe minister.

He joins a list of politicians prosecuted as a result of the expenses scandal.

They include fellow former Labour minister Elliot Morley, as well as MPs Jim Devine, David Chaytor and Eric Illsley.

Tories to fall foul of the law were Lord Hanningfield and Lord Taylor of Warwick.

Sentences have ranged from nine to 18 months.

Another ex-Labour MP, Margaret Moran, was spared prison and given a supervision order instead after suffering mental health problems.

Mr Sweeney told MacShane that he acknowledged a difference between his case and other MPs sentenced following the expenses scandal.

However, MacShane “deliberately created misleading and deceptive invoices and then used them in order to procure payments of public money”, the judge added.

“You must therefore have been aware throughout that it was an essential feature of the expenses system then in operation that Members of Parliament were invariably treated as honest, trustworthy people, and that the unwritten assumption was that only claims for expenses genuinely incurred in accordance with the rules would be made,” Mr Sweeney said.

“Yet you acted in flagrant breach of that trust.”

Drug Gang Jailed For 167 Years

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Members of drugs gangs, who worked together to peddle over £1.5m of heroin and cocaine across Lancashire and other parts of the country, have been jailed for a total of 167 years one month.

36 people have now been sentenced as a result of Operation Oak, a covert Lancashire Constabulary Serious and Organised Crime Operation into the activities of criminal gangs operating in Blackburn and Preston, as well as other parts of Cumbria, Merseyside, Berkshire and West Yorkshire.

They were arrested in a series of early morning raids in August and September 2011 after a major police operation involving hundreds of police officers from across the northwest. During the various investigations which followed, over £1.5million worth of drugs were seized by police, along with over £200,000 in cash.

Gang leaders Suhail Vohra, 32, of Charnwood Close, Blackburn, Babar Qasam, 34, of Chestnut Walk, Blackburn; Asrer Khan, 29, of Dove Street, Preston; Neil Scarborough, 32, of Moor Hall St, Preston; Brett McWilliam, 22, of St Andrews Street, Barrow in Furness; Gary Rowlands, 28, of Sloop St, Barrow in Furness; Roman Moscicki, 30 of Adam Close, Slough; Rahman Miah, 29, of Azalea Court, Bradford and Jonathon Nicholls, 31, of Oak Grove, Tarbuck, Liverpool – along with their associates – were all sentenced for supplying class A drugs or money laundering offences.

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At a final sentencing hearing at Preston Crown Court on Monday 13 May, Tahier Chand, 34, of Manchester Road, Huddesfield was jailed for five years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply heroin. He is the 36th person to be sentenced in connection with Operation Oak.

Details of the full investigation can only now be made public due to reporting restrictions which were lifted following a hearing at Preston Crown Court last week.

Detective Superintendent Lee Halstead, of Lancashire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said: “Operation Oak has dismantled a network of drugs gangs responsible for the supply of over £1.5million worth of cocaine and heroin across northern England and has resulted in the recovery of huge sums of cash.

“As a result these people, who did not have a legitimate income, led comfortable and in some cases quite affluent lifestyles, acting as negative role models to young people. This was at the expense and misery of other residents in the community, whose lives were blighted by the effects of drug dealing and associated violence in their neighbourhoods.

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“This has been a large scale investigation and we have worked closely with officers from our neighbouring forces and the Crown Prosecution Service. Together, our actions have prevented a significantly large amount of drugs from reaching the streets of Lancashire helping to make the county a safer place.”

Billboard posters and leaflets will now be used to highlight the sentences to the communities who were affected by the gangs as part of Lancashire Constabulary’s Behind Bars campaign.

Det Supt Lee Halstead added: “Our planned ‘Behind Bars’ campaign should now remind everyone that 167 years in prison is proof that crime certainly does not pay.

“It’s incredibly important that people continue to support the police by providing us with information so that we can keep them safe and look for ways to prevent organised crime gangs from operating in the future.

Joanne Cunliffe, Crown Advocate from the CPS North West Complex Casework Unit added: “The fact that 36 individuals have been brought to justice for their involvement in the large scale supply of Class A drugs across the north of England is a testament to the close partnership between the CPS, Lancashire Police, Cumbria Police and other neighbouring forces.

“From the early stages of this investigation, the prosecution team provided guidance and advice to the police and tirelessly worked with them to build a strong case against each defendant.

“As a result we have successfully secured their convictions and dismantled a prominent source of drugs in our region and surrounding areas. The message is clear, we will not tolerate the supply of drugs on our streets and we are wholly committed to prosecuting those responsible.”

Anyone with information or concerns can contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.