A former Watford councillor and phone hacking victim has called for journalists convicted of the crime to be spared jail.

Mark Oaten, whose frontbench parliamentary career was ended when the News of the World exposed his relationship with a male prostitute, said he wanted to see "no more suffering" caused by the saga.

The 50-year-old appeared on Channel 4 news last night after the former editor of the tabloid, Andy Coulson, was convicted of conspiring to hack phones at the Old Bailey yesterday.

Mr Oaten said: "I don't want to see anybody go to a jail as a result of this. There has been enough hurt for the victims. They, as individuals, have got families and children. I went through it. They have gone through it in this trial.

"No more suffering. But I would like my half an hour with them to explain the consequences of what individuals as powerful as that can do to the lives of people that they expose in the way they do."

Mark Oaten was born and raised in Watford and became the town’s first SDP councillor in 1986. He then went on to stand as a Watford parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrats in 1992, coming third with 10,231 votes.

Mr Oaten later became a Lib Dem MP for Winchester in 1997 and held a number of senior roles in the party including Shadow Home Secretary.

In January 2006 he announced he was standing for the leadership of the party after Charles Kennedy resigned as leader. However Mr Oaten withdrew his candidacy just nine days after announcing it and next day the News of the World published its revelations about his private life.

Mr Oaten resigned from the Lib Dem front bench in the wake of the scandal and then stood down from his parliamentary seat at the 2010 General Election.

During his interview on Channel 4 News Mr Oaten added: "They played me all of these messages that I had never got. And all of a sudden my mood changed, I actually started crying, which I am told is quite common a lot of the other victims cried when they heard the tapes.

"And that I think was out of pure shock at what had happened. To hear myself impersonated to hear love ones and people I knew leaving messages for me that I never got. It was incredibly shocking."