'Fake Sheikh' Mazher Mahmood jailed for 15 months over evidence tampering in Tulisa trial

Credit: PA

Tabloid journalist Mazher Mahmood, known as the "Fake Sheikh", has been sentenced to 15 months for tampering with evidence in the collapsed drugs trial of N-Dubz star Tulisa Contostavlos.

Judge Gerald Gordon said that while he accepted Mahmood had done "some good work" in his long career, there could be no justification for evidence tampering and custody was inevitable.

As Mahmood was jailed, someone in the public gallery shouted "your turn now Mazher" to the journalist, who claims to have helped in the convictions of 100 criminals during his 25 years of investigative reporting.

Outside the courtroom, former actor John Alford, who spent nine months in prison following one of Mahmood's stings, welcomed the judgement, saying the public needed to be protected from "unscrupulous and corrupt journalists".

"It's taken over 20 years for some of us, but finally a judge and a jury of our peers has woken up to Mazher Mahmood's lies," he said.

Former boxing champion Herbie Hide, who spent four months in prison as a result of one of Mahmood's reports, was also in court to watch the sentencing.

Speaking to ITV News afterwards Hide said he was "happy" Mahmood would spend time in jail.

"My kids came to visit me [when I was in jail] and I thought 'Oh my goodness, am I ever going to see my kids again?' That's the shock it has on you. He's going to have that shock as well," he said.

For more than 25 years, Mahmood enjoyed a position as "King of the Sting" at the now defunct News of the World, Sunday Times and Sun on Sunday.

Following his conviction for evidence tampering at least 18 civil claims have been launched against him, which could total some £800 million.

Emma Morgan, a former page three model who Mahmood covertly filmed taking cannabis and cocaine, told ITV News she thought the journalist's 15-month sentence was "lenient", considering the damage Mahmood had inflicted on the careers of so many celebrities.

Immediately after the sentencing News UK announced that Mahmood had been sacked.

"Following the sentencing of Mazher Mahmood today, News UK can confirm that his employment has been terminated," a spokesman for the company said.

Mahmood's sentence follows a two-week trial at the Old Bailey in which a jury found the 53-year-old guilty of plotting to pervert the course of justice, along with his driver Alan Smith.

Smith received a 12 month sentence, suspended for two years, with Judge Gordon saying the driver had been motivated in part by "misguided loyalty".

Mazher Mahmood. Credit: Police handout

The case against Mr Mahmood emerged following the collapse of the drugs trial of former X-Factor judge Ms Contostavlos.

The pop star was being prosecuted after she was accused of arranging for Mahmood to be sold £800 of cocaine by one of her contacts following a sting for The Sun on Sunday in May 2013.

But the trial against her collapsed in July 2014, after the judge in the case at Southwark Crown Court said there were "strong grounds" to believe Mahmood had lied in the witness box.