London: The British tabloid journalist whose tales of phone hacking were key to the conviction of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson was on Thursday spared jail for his own involvement in the scandal.
Dan Evans had admitted hacking phones while working for the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid and its rival, the Sunday Mirror, as well as lying about his activities during a civil lawsuit and paying public officials for stories.
But at the Old Bailey court in London, the 38-year-old received a 10-month prison term suspended for a year, meaning he will not serve any jail time unless he breaches his probation. He was also given 200 hours' community service.
Evans was a star witness in the recent high-profile hacking trial, claiming to have played Coulson a voicemail from James Bond actor Daniel Craig's phone and telling jurors that hacking was so rife at the News of the World that "even the office cat" knew about it.
Coulson, who was editor of the Sunday tabloid at the time and went on to work as media chief for Prime Minister David Cameron, was jailed for 18 months earlier this month after being found guilty of hacking.
Sentencing Evans on Thursday, Judge John Saunders said he was lenient because the journalist was one of only two people who agreed to testify about voicemail interception at the News of the World, which was shut down in disgrace in 2011.
"It became clear in the trial that I have just completed, that getting people who work in newspapers to give evidence of phone hacking is extremely difficult, if not impossible," said Saunders, who had presided over the hacking trial.
"The undisputed evidence in the trial was that between 2004 and 2006, there was a great deal of phone hacking at the News of the World. 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," said Saunders.
The judge said he would not speculate why so few people had been prepared to testify but said the fact made Evans' position "unique".
The other person who gave evidence was Clive Goodman, the News of the World's former royal editor who was jailed in 2007 for hacking and was a defendant in the recent trial.
He and Coulson were also accused of conspiring to pay a police officer for royal telephone directories, but the jury could not reach a verdict and both men face a retrial on that charge.