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March 10, 2015updated 11 Mar 2015 8:55pm

Neville Thurlbeck says of arrested journalists: ‘They will be given a second chance, as I have’

By Dominic Ponsford

Former News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck has reassured colleagues that there is life after being caught up in the police investigations into hacking and payments.

Thurlbeck admitted involvement in phone-hacking and served 37 days of a six-month prison sentence. He was released on 12 August 2014.

Since then he has launched his own PR company Clear Vista Media.

Its clients include The Pasadena Roof Orchestra, TV magician Jamie Allen and The Retail Ombudsman (where he is director of communications).

After serving his time inside Belmarsh high security prison, Thurlbeck says he has been welcomed back by the media industry.

He told Press Gazette: “I’d like to reassure old colleagues there is life after operations Weeting [into phone-hacking] and Elveden [into payments to public officials].

“From a purely business point of view, the demand for media professionals has never been greater. And the opportunities are there for very good communicators.

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"All the people I know who have been caught up in these police operations and lengthy court proceedings are communicators of the very highest calibre. Whatever the outcome, they will succeed within the ever expanding media landscape."

Thurlbeck was one of four former News of the World journalists to plead guilty to phone-hacking (alongside Greg Miskiw, James Weatherup and Ian Edmondson).

Their former editor Andy Coulson was found guilty by a jury. Coulson, Miskiw and Edmondson were also jailed.

At least 64 journalists have been arrested since April 2011 as a result of police investigations stemming from the hacking scandal.

Thurlbeck said: "It is quite painful to watch dozens of former colleagues, some of them still in their 30s, feeling their careers and lives have been wrecked and they may never work again. These people are among the best in our business and they will be given a second chance, as I have. And they will be as relieved and as grateful as I am when it happens.

“They won't find doors closing. If they have an important or interesting message to convey on behalf of a client or a vital story to tell, doors will open and people will listen.

"I expect they will feel, as I did, a certain anxiety on striking out again after an absence from the media world. But they will find both the general public and media outlets have developed a sense of perspective about the events which enveloped News International (now News UK) and the reporters caught up in them.

“One thing is for sure, they will find themselves extremely risk averse in their new found roles. I used to take the advice of company lawyers as sacrosanct and that ended in a right old pickle for me. Now I question every decision I make myself and won’t even cross the road when the green man is flashing. No bad thing. And when you work for yourself, the pay and conditions are much better too.”

Thurlbeck wrote a blog for Press Gazette in 2011 in which he denied involvement in the hacking of Gordon Taylor’s voicemail. But at trial he admitted involvement in other voicemail interception.

His book – Tabloid Secrets – is set to be published by Biteback Publishing in April and will tell the inside story of his career at the News of the World (but will not cover the hacking scandal).

He said: "My advice is to put anger and bitterness to one side and move on quickly. There is no point fighting yesterday's battles. Look only to the future and what we can all make of it."

Picture credit: Jason Alden.

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