British PM’s ex-aide charged in perjury probe

Agence France-Presse
Andy Coulson, an ex-editor of News of the World, was charged with perjury over a phone-hacking scandal

GLASGOW, Scotland – Andy Coulson, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s former media chief and an ex-editor of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World, was on Wednesday, May 30, charged with perjury by Scottish police.

“Strathclyde Police have arrested and charged Andrew Coulson with perjury following his detention on 30 May 2012,” police confirmed.

Coulson, 44, was detained in a dawn raid on his home in London and then driven to Glasgow.

His arrest relates to evidence that he gave in the perjury trial of socialist politician Tommy Sheridan at the High Court in December 2010 in a case relating to a story in the News of the World.

“Officers from Strathclyde Police’s Operation Rubicon team detained a 44-year-old man in London this morning under section 14 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 on suspicion of committing perjury before the High Court in Glasgow,” a spokeswoman for the force told AFP.

“This is an ongoing inquiry and therefore no further information is available at this time.”

Coulson was arrested separately in July last year by London’s Metropolitan Police on suspicion of phone hacking and corruption during his tenure at the now-closed News of the World from 2003 to 2007.

Under pressure

After quitting the News of the World in January 2007 following the jailing of the paper’s royal reporter and a private eye over hacking, Coulson became communications director for Cameron’s Conservative Party in July that year.

He became the government’s communications chief after the Conservatives entered office in May 2010 but he resigned in January 2011 after coming under pressure over the phone-hacking scandal.

Coulson was still in his Downing Street role at the time of the trial involving Sheridan, a former Scottish Socialist Party leader and ex-member of the Scottish Parliament.

“We now have a start to what will hopefully become criminal charges and hopefully Mr Coulson won’t be lonely but he will be joined by colleagues in the future,” Sheridan, 48, said on Wednesday.

The News of the World — which closed in July 2011 because of the phone hacking scandal at the paper — had claimed that Sheridan was an adulterer who visited a swingers’ club.

Sheridan won a 2006 defamation action against the weekly and was awarded £200,000 ($310,000, 250,000 euros), but in 2010 he was charged with lying on oath in relation to the case.

A jury convicted Sheridan, who represented himself, of perjury during the 2006 civil action. He was jailed for three years in January 2011 and released from prison a year later.

Operation Rubicon is the investigation into allegations of phone hacking, breach of data protection and perjury in Scotland, a separate jurisdiction to England.

No conspiracy

Its officers have been tasked by state prosecutors the Crown Office to examine aspects of the evidence presented during Sheridan’s perjury trial.

Strathclyde Police, Scotland’s largest constabulary, is liaising with the Metropolitan Police, which is running the main investigations relating to alleged activities at the News of the World.

Coulson appeared before the Leveson Inquiry, the probe into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press, on May 10.

He said Cameron had accepted his assurances that he knew nothing about phone hacking at the News of the World and insisted there was no “grand conspiracy” between the media empire and the Conservatives.

Coulson admitted he kept shares in Rupert Murdoch’s US-based News Corporation while working for Cameron, and that he might have had unsupervised access to top secret documents despite not having a full security clearance. – Agence France-Presse

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