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A senior journalist at UK Sunday paper News of the World has been jailed for four months after being convicted of a plot to intercept voicemail messages of the Royal family.

Clive Goodman, 49, of Putney, London, the royal editor of the paper, conspired with private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, 36, of Sutton, Surrey, to illegally access hundreds of messages. Mulcaire, who also pleaded guilty to hacking into the messages of sport and fashion figures, was sent to jail for six months. Mulcaire hacked into the phone messages of publicist Max Clifford, MP Simon Hughes, football agent Skylet Andrew, the Professional Footballers' Association's boss Gordon Taylor, and supermodel Elle Macpherson.

Both defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to intercept telephone calls "without lawful authority" at an earlier hearing.

Sentencing Goodman, Judge Mr Justice Gross told him: "This was low conduct, reprehensible in the extreme." The case was nothing to with freedom of the press but about "grave, inexcusable and illegal invasion of privacy".

"Neither journalist or private security consultant are above the law," Judge Gross added.

News of the World editor Andy Coulson resigned hours after the duo were sentenced, saying the responsibility for the scandal ultimately rested with him.

Goodman and Mulcaire used PIN codes associated with mobile phone numbers of Royal aides and celebrities to access their voicemail messages, essentially trawling for information of interest. After a story about his knee injury was published by the News of the World in November 2005, Prince William grew suspicious.

In December 2005, Prince Charles's communication secretary Paddy Harverson, his aide Helen Asprey, and Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, private secretary to Princes William and Harry realised something was untoward after new voicemail messages were reported as old. A subsequent police investigation led to the arrest of Goodman and Mulcaire in August 2006. ®

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