Andy Coulson cleared of committing perjury

Judge rules former News of the World editor ‘had no case to answer’

Andy Coulson pictured arriving at the High Court in Edinburgh on Monday. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Andy Coulson pictured arriving at the High Court in Edinburgh on Monday. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

 

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson has been cleared at the High Court in Edinburgh of committing perjury at the 2010 trial of former socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan after the judge ruled he had no case to answer.

Mr Coulson was found guilty in June last year of conspiring to intercept voicemails at the now-defunct Sunday tabloid following a trial at the Old Bailey.

During the perjury trial, the Crown heard evidence from several former journalists at the paper as they tried to build a picture of practices while Coulson was editor - a position he held from January 2003 until his resignation in January 2007.

But when the prosecution closed its case after seven days of evidence last Tuesday, Mr Coulson’s legal team lodged a submission that there was no case to answer and among the arguments said the evidence alleged to be false in this case was not relevant to the then live issues - the charge of perjury in Mr Sheridan’s trial.

The prosecution case centred around what they alleged to be lies told by Mr Coulson under oath at Mr Sheridan’s trial more than four years ago.

Mr Sheridan was on trial for perjury at that stage and, while conducting his own defence, called Mr Coulson as a witness over two days at the High Court in Glasgow in December 2010.

Mr Sheridan’s trial was in respect of evidence he gave in an earlier 2006 civil action.

Mr Coulson’s trial heard that, following publication of a series of articles in the News of the World, Mr Sheridan raised a defamation action in Scotland’s Court of Session against the newspaper’s publishers, News Group International.

The jury in the subsequent 2006 action decided that the politician had been defamed by the newspaper and it was ordered to pay him £200,000 in damages.

Mr Sheridan was jailed for three years in January 2011 after being found guilty of lying about the now-defunct tabloid’s claims that he was an adulterer who visited a swingers club.

Prosecutors in the latest trial alleged that Mr Coulson made false claims on December 9th and 10th 2010 after being sworn in as a witness in Glasgow.

The charge against Coulson alleged he falsely stated that before the arrest of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and News of the World journalist Clive Goodman on August 8th 2006, he did not know that Goodman was involved in phone hacking with Mr Mulcaire.

It claimed he falsely said he did not know that payments were made to Mr Mulcaire by Mr Goodman and he did not know of Mr Mulcaire’s “illegal activities”.

The Crown also alleged that Mr Coulson was wrong when he said he did not have any email exchanges with Goodman in relation to Mr Mulcaire and falsely stated that he did not know of Mr Mulcaire, had not heard his name and did not know that he was employed by the tabloid.

Mr Coulson pleaded not guilty to the allegations against him.

Judge Lord Burns told Mr Coulson on Wednesday: “You may leave the dock.”

Mr Coulson walked to the back of the courtroom and sat down to listen to the judge discharge the jury.

Lord Burns told jurors he would explain what had happened on the days they were not in court.

He said: “To prove the charge against Mr Coulson, the Crown needed to prove that the allegedly false evidence given by Mr Coulson was relevant to the issues which arose in Mr Sheridan’s trial for perjury or Mr Coulson’s credibility in the important evidence he gave at that trial.

“That was the matter of law for me. A judge’s question. Relevancy is always a judge’s question.”

He told them: “After two days of legal submissions last week and having considered the matter, I decided that the Crown had not led sufficient evidence to satisfy me that the allegedly false evidence was relevant to proof of the charge in Mr Sheridan’s trial or Mr Coulson’s credibility at that trial.”

PA