Phone-hacker who gave evidence against former colleagues escapes jail with 10-month suspended sentence

A journalist who intercepted voicemail messages for both the News of the World and Sunday Mirror today escaped prison.

Dan Evans last year admitted accessing the voicemails of some 200 celebrities, sportspeople and politicians and listening to more than 1,000 voicemails while he was working at the Sunday Mirror and after he was recruited by the NoW.

The 38-year-old became the star prosecution witness in the Old Bailey hacking trial of former No 10 spin doctor Coulson, who earlier this month was found guilty of the hacking plot and jailed for 18 months.

Evans also admitted misconduct in a public office and conspiring to pervert the course of justice.

Mr Justice Saunders gave him a 10-month jail sentence suspended for 12 months and ordered him to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work in the community.

He said he had taken into account Evans' guilty pleas and his agreement to give evidence in the hacking trial and possibly in the future.

He added: "In the circumstances of this case, and in particluar the co-operation that Mr Evans has given and has agreed to give the police and the prosecution in the future as compared with the lack of co-operation from others, I do feel able to suspend the sentence for a period of 12 months.

"I would not have done that had Mr Evans not made a clean breast of his involvement in these offences."

Evans, of Kilburn, north London, admitted two counts of conspiring to hack phones – one when he worked at the Sunday Mirror between 2003 and 2005 and the other from 2004 to 2010 after he had been poached by the NoW.

He has also pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office between 2008 and 2010.

Evans had also admitted perverting the course of justice between 2009 and 2010 by making a false witness statement in the High Court over the civil action brought by designer Kelly Hoppen over two attempts to hack her phone.

Prosecutor Mark Bryan-Heron QC told the court that Evans made a deal with the prosecution after he was arrested for phone-hacking in August 2011.

Evans had told how he was recruited by the NoW to get big stories cheaply through phone-hacking in January 2005.

Although he was told to stop after the conviction of former NoW royal editor Clive Goodman and private detective Glenn Mulcaire in 2006, the pressure to produce good stories led him to resumed his activities.

He was found out in 2009 when Ms Hoppen caught him attempting to hack her phone and launched a civil action which has now settled, the court heard.

He initially blamed "sticky keys" on his phone, but he later admitted that was a lie, the court heard.

Following an examination of emails by investigators from Operation Elveden, evidence also emerged of Evans's involvement with corrupt public officials.

The court heard that he had admitted paying a prison officer for stories about Soham Killer Ian Huntley while he was in jail at HMP Frankland near Durham.

The information about Huntley's depression in prison led to the publication of a story on 6 Apri 2008 headlined Tormented Huntley in Jail Death Plea.

Details were also revealed by the prison officer about Huntley's daily routine and love of Strictly Come Dancing, the court heard.

Evans also gleaned information from a serving police officer about a firearms search on the home of EastEnders actor Steve McFadden which led to a story being published in March 2010, the court heard.

The officer, who has also admitted misconduct in a public office, was paid £750 through a third party for the information, Bryant-Heron said.

In mitigation, Evans' lawyer, Jonathan Turner QC, said his client had been under intense pressure when he moved to the NoW.

He said: "He was taking drugs, he was drinking, his family was falling apart and far from enjoying the fruits of his labours he was becoming depressed and demoralised.

"He tried to move away from phone-hacking after the arrests of Mr Mulcaire and Mr Goodman and he was successful in doing so. By the middle of 2009 he was so afraid of losing his job he tried to hack Ms Hoppen.

"Because of the state that he was in he went about this in a completely incompetent way, lacking the efficiency of a year or so before, and did it in a way that was inevitably going to lead back to him – and did."

The lawyer went on: "There must have come a time where he must have looked at himself and hated himself.

"There is no excuse for what he did. He never tried to pretend he was acting lawfully in doing this but at least he has accepted responsibility for this at an early stage."

Mr Justice Saunders highlighted Evans's willingness to speak out about hacking at the NoW, in stark contrast to the reluctance of others despite the "undisputed evidence" there was a great deal of hacking going on at the newspaper between 2004 and 2006.

He said: "While I have no doubt it wasn't done openly, it must have been known about by more people than have been prepared to give evidence about it in court.

"Mr Evans and Mr Goodman are the only people who have been prepared to give evidence of their knowledge and involvement in phone-hacking at the News of the World.

"Mr Goodman made it clear in his evidence that he would not have given evidence about it but for his position as a defendant in the trial.

"Why so few people have been prepared to give evidence in court about what went on is not for me to say but it makes Mr Evans's position unique."

Taking this into account, the judge reduced the sentence he would have imposed from a total of 24 months to 10 months as well as suspending the prison term.

Dismissing Evans from the dock at the Old Bailey, he said: "You can take your overnight bag and go, thank you."

Evans is one of five former NoW staff to plead guilty to conspiracy to intercept voicemail messages in the recent hacking trial. Former news editor Greg Miskiw and former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck are both currently serving six-month sentences after pleading guilty. Former NoW newsdesk executive James Weatherup also pleaded guilty, and escaped a prison term as did former private investigator for the paper Glenn Mulcaire. Former NoW editor Andy Coulson pleaded not guilty and is currently serving an 18-month sentence after being convicted by a jury.

Evans is the sixth tabloid phone-hacker convicted as a result of the recent trial, but the seventh including former NoW royal editor Goodman who was jailed in 2006 alongside Mulcaire.

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