Mirror group journalist sentenced for phone-hacking

Old Bailey1080Posted: December 18, 2014 at 12:46 pm

A former reporter for the Sunday Mirror was today sentenced to two months in prison, suspended for 12 months after pleading guilty to hacking the voicemails of a: “well known soap actress.”

Graham Johnson, 46, who worked at the newspaper from 1997 until 2005, admitted a “short but intense period” in 2001 of intercepting the actress’s mobile phone messages during an investigation into her private life.

In March 2013, the court heard, police arrested a number of Sunday Mirror reporters for the suspected illegal interception of communications. While Johnson was not at that point under suspicion he voluntarily approached police and confessed to his role in the practice.

In mitigation defence advocate, Avtar Bhatoa, asked the court to consider that his client had been “working under instructions from senior management and had only undertaken the voicemail interception with reluctance.” After a week, Bhatoa said Johnson had realised what he was doing was wrong and had “walked off the job.”

He asked the court to note that Johnson had only been involved in one incidence of offending and not the “industrial scale,” interception of communications exposed at the recent phone-hacking trial.

The court was also shown submissions, including one from award-winning journalist Nick Davies, praising Johnson for coming forward and admitting his offences and for his help in exposing the illegal practice. Victims’ pressure group Hacked Off also made a written submission to the court asking for the judge to show leniency to encourage other journalists to come forward with information.

Sentencing Johnson the Recorder of London, Bryan Barker, told the court that Johnson had “abused his professional position,” to commit an offence “the public rightly take very seriously.” While considering that Johnson’s actions would normally lead to a custodial sentence he would give the journalist credit for coming forward and admitting his actions and suspend the term.

Johnson is the ninth reporter to be convicted of phone hacking and the second to be sentenced for offences committed at the Mirror Group.

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