Did Andy Coulson commit perjury in the Tommy Sheridan trial?

Police charge ex-NOTW editor over claims relating to Scottish Socialist's own perjury case
  • @cahalmilmo

Andy Coulson, the former Downing Street communications chief, was arrested and charged with perjury last night over allegations he lied on oath during the trial of Scottish socialist politician Tommy Sheridan.

Mr Coulson, who is a former editor of the News of the World, was detained early yesterday morning after officers from Scotland Yard and Strathclyde Police arrived at his south-east London home at 6.30am to escort him north for questioning at Govan police station in Glasgow. The force said a report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal which will decide whether Mr Coulson is to face court proceedings.

The 44-year-old was a high-profile witness at the trial of Mr Sheridan in 2010, who was himself facing allegations of perjury committed during an earlier libel case in which he won £200,000 damages against the NOTW for claims that he was an adulterer who had visited a swingers club.

During his testimony in December 2010, Mr Coulson, who at the time was still David Cameron's spin doctor, repeatedly denied all knowledge of criminal activity during his editorship of the now-defunct Sunday tabloid between 2003 and 2007; this included any knowledge of phone hacking by the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

When shown documentary evidence by Mr Sheridan suggesting Mr Mulcaire, who was paid more than £100,000 a year by the NOTW, had targeted his phone, Mr Coulson said: "I'm saying I had absolutely no knowledge of it."

Operation Rubicon, an investigation into the phone-hacking scandal in Scotland launched by Strathclyde Police last summer, has been looking at whether a number of witnesses lied in court during the trial of Mr Sheridan, who was found guilty of perjury and left prison in January after serving 12 months of a three-year sentence.

Mr Coulson, who stepped down from his Downing Street post shortly after giving evidence in 2010 and was arrested last July by Yard officers on suspicion of conspiring to intercept voicemails and making corrupt payments to police, arrived in Glasgow shortly after 3pm.

Later that evening, Strathclyde Police announced that they had arrested and charged Mr Coulson. He was then released from custody.

Under Scottish law, a suspect is initially detained for questioning and is only formally arrested if officers decide there is sufficient evidence to bring a criminal charge. The Scottish courts have a reputation for taking a particularly dim view of perjury.

My bank details were targeted, says Clarke

Ken Clarke, the Justice Secretary, told the Leveson Inquiry that politicians were influenced by a "noisier and noisier" press. Newspapers could "drive weak governments like sheep", he said.

"There certainly are cases... where policy decisions are taken primarily because people, the politicians and ministers responsible, are fearful of the media reaction," he said.

Mr Clarke also revealed he was forced to move his bank account after he discovered journalists were trying to access personal information. He said reporters attempted to bribe staff at his village branch soon after he was appointed Chancellor in 1993. He told the inquiry such antics would have been regarded as "perfectly customary" at the time.