updated 1/26/2007 2:17:54 PM ET 2007-01-26T19:17:54

A British court on Friday sentenced a tabloid journalist to four months in prison for hacking into royal officials' voicemail systems in a bid for a career-saving scoop on Britain's royal family.

Judge Peter Henry Gross said he had no option but to sentence to prison Clive Goodman, 49, the royal editor of the News of the World, describing his crime as "reprehensible in the extreme."

Goodman's accomplice, private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, 36, was sentenced to six months in prison for conspiring to hack into the messages, including some from Princes William and Harry, sons of heir to the throne Prince Charles.

Andy Coulson, the editor of the News of the World, resigned Friday after the sentencings, newspaper spokeswoman Hayley Barlow said.

Prosecutor David Perry told the court that the pair intercepted "several hundred" messages.

"The defendants' motivation was profit and personal gain and their conduct amounted to gross invasion of privacy and the abuse of the public telephone system," Perry told the court.

Between November 2005 and June 2006, the men made 609 separate calls to the voicemail systems of three senior members of the royal household.

Mulcaire, a former semiprofessional soccer player who also pleaded guilty to five other charges involving other well-known figures, including supermodel Elle Macpherson, accessed other voicemail messages between February and June last year, Perry said.

He said the two men broke into the voicemails using mobile numbers and mobile phone network operators' secret codes.

Goodman and Mulcaire apologized through their lawyers to the Prince of Wales, Princes William and Harry at a previous hearing.

The conspiracy charge relate to intercepted voicemail messages on the telephones of the Prince of Wales's aide Helen Asprey, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, who is private secretary to Princes William and Harry, and Charles' communications secretary Paddy Harverson.

Goodman's lawyer, John Kelsey-Fry, said the reporter acted in response to pressure from his employers.

"Mr. Goodman's stories were no longer considered adequate by his superiors," Kelsey-Fry said. "He was demoted, sidelined and a younger reporter was assigned to cover the royal family. Under that pressure, he feared for his job. It was whilst under that pressure that he departed from these high standards with which he lived his life, a departure of which he will be ashamed for the rest of his life."

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