Judge 'concerned' Andy Coulson still at Belmarsh

Andy Coulson Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Justice Saunders says any retrial of Coulson is "way down the line"

A judge is to write to Belmarsh Prison's governor over concerns that Andy Coulson is still held there three weeks after the ex-News of the World editor was jailed for hacking.

It is a Category A prison - the highest security level - but it also holds inmates of all categories sentenced at London courts.

Coulson remains there because he faces a possible retrial at the Old Bailey.

But Mr Justice Saunders said any retrial was "way down the line".

The Ministry of Justice said it would not comment on individual cases.

Prisoners deemed to be of low risk are usually assessed and sent to a suitable prison as soon as is practically possible.

£750,000 costs

Coulson, who was sentenced to 18 months for conspiracy to hack voicemails, is facing a possible retrial on two counts of conspiring to cause misconduct in public office.

It relates to allegations he was involved in conspiring to pay a police officer for royal telephone directories.

He may have to appear at the Old Bailey.

During legal argument, it emerged in court that, due to the unavailability of counsel, a new trial could probably not take place before Christmas.

Belmarsh prison

  • Located in Thamesmead, south-east London
  • Capacity: 910
  • Serves Old Bailey, magistrates courts in south-east London, courts in south-west Essex
  • Majority of prisoners described as relatively low risk, on remand or recently sentenced
  • Separate high security unit holds about 50 category A prisoners, among them some of the most dangerous in the UK
  • Opened in 1991, becoming the first new prison to be built in London since 1885

Source: HM Inspectorate of Prisons/Ministry of Justice

Mr Justice Saunders, who was the judge in the eight-month hacking trial, said he was "concerned to hear" that Mr Coulson was still at Belmarsh.

He said he would contact the prison governor to explain that any possible retrial would not go ahead quickly.

The judge was speaking during a court hearing at which Crown prosecutor Andrew Edis QC made an application for prosecution costs against the PM's former communications chief.

At an earlier hearing it was revealed that the Crown Prosecution Service estimated that Coulson was liable to pay up to £750,000.

Coulson 'co-operative'

In reference to financial statements supplied to the court, Mr Edis said: "A lot of money has passed through Coulson's hands over the years and there does not appear to be very much left."

Timothy Langdale QC, who represents Coulson, said that his client had been "fully co-operative" in supplying financial information to the court.

It was also revealed that News UK, formerly News International, the company Mr Coulson worked for while at the Sun and the News of the World, may be liable to pay for any costs order made against their former employee.

In 2012, the company was ordered to pay his legal fees in connection with the phone hacking trial.

Mr Justice Saunders reserved his judgement on the issue of costs to a later date.