NoW phone-hackers Miskiw and Thurlbeck released after 37 days in Belmarsh high security prison

Convicted News of the World phone-hackers Neville Thurlbeck and Greg Miskiw have been released after serving 37 days of their six-month sentences.

The pair served all of their sentences in Belmarsh Prison in London. This is a category A prison meaning it has the highest level of security and is reserved for prisoners who pose a threat to the public.

They were imprisoned alongside some of the UK's most serious violent offenders including David Copeland, who was jailed for life in 1999 after murdering three people with a nail bomb in the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho.

Former News of the World chief reporter Thurlbeck revealed on his website today that a report in the International Business Times that former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, also jailed for phone-hacking, had been attacked by a fellow inmate on his second day in prison was untrue.

Thurlbeck and Coulson shared a cell along with another individual and were confined inside it for at least 21 hours a day. Coulson, who was sentenced to 18 months, remains in Belmarsh.

Thurlbeck wrote: “Despite being left in a 'Category A' prison, Andy Coulson is in good spirits and is getting on well with his fellow inmates. Reports that he has been attacked are totally untrue. We have been in each others' company for between 22 to 24 hours per day and I have witnessed nothing other than the hand of friendship to both of us. We would like to put the record straight on this.”

Thurlbeck and his former news editor Miskiw (below: Reuters) were both sentenced to six months but qualified for early release in view of their good behaviour and because they had already served 106 days of home detention with an electronic tag.

Press Gazette understands that Thurlbeck and Miskiw were not moved to a lower security prison because of the short terms which they had to serve. But it is unclear why Coulson, sentenced to 18 months, remains held under the highest security category.

The other convicted phone-hackers were given non custodial sentences: Dan Evans, Glenn Mulcaire and James Weatherup.

Thurlbeck today published on his blog a speech he gave at the Oxford Union two days before his sentencing, on 2 July, in which he argued against statutory regulation of the press.

He said: “Before I advance the argument for the proposition, let me first acknowledge how we, the press have got matters spectacularly wrong, speaking as I do, from the vantage point of a man in the vortex of the most cataclysmic storm in the history of newspapers.

"There have been corrupt payments to public officials – soldiers and police officers – in return for stories. Many of these stories were not in the public interest. Mere tittle-tattle. No justification. There have been gross invasions of privacy. And there has been phone hacking. A practise which has outraged a large section of the population and in which, to my regret, I was personally drawn into."

But pointing out that "criminal wrongdoing by journalists has been investigated by 195 police officers for three years" he said: "As well as the trial which has just concluded, at least 12 more trials are in the pipeline, involving up to 40 accused…

"I say this to demonstrate that the law works as it is. I can tell you from rather painful first hand experience, that wrongdoing is being severely punished. It is far more effective than moral puritanism. Or a Royal Charter, which may allow undue political interference and wipe out the industry with £1 million fines. Or beat it into subservience with growing powers and influence in years to come, under less savoury political regimes than we enjoy at present.

"You don’t need your peers in the form of Hacked Off or your elected politicians dictating what you can and cannot read and lecturing your press on how to behave. You have the police. You have the law. And you have the judiciary. It is enough. And I am the living proof of it."

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