THE Prime Minister’s former director of communications Andy Coulson was arrested and charged last night by Scottish police over allegations of perjury.
• Following questioning from police, Mr Coulson arrested and charged with perjury
• Strathclyde Police detained Mr Coulson at his home in Dulwich, London on Wednesday morning
• Mr Coulson gave evidence at Tommy Sheridan perjury trial
Coulson, a former editor of News of the World, was detained in a dawn raid on his home in the Dulwich area of London, at 6:30am yesterday, and then driven up to Glasgow.
He did not arrive at Govan Police Station until 3:20pm.
The former News of the World editor finally left the station at 9:30pm. At just before 10pm, the force announced that it had arrested a 44-year-old man in connection with alleged perjury before the High Court, and that a report would be submitted to the procurator fiscal.
It is alleged he lied under oath during the perjury trial of former MSP and Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan, who served 12 months of a three-year sentence.
Speaking outside his home, Sheridan said he hoped the police action marked the first steps towards quashing his “unsafe and unsound” conviction.
If Coulson were convicted of perjury it would provide a huge boost to any appeal. A legal source said he thought it would give credence to Sheridan’s claims of a News International conspiracy against him.
Any conviction of perjury against a witness would automatically taint a guilty verdict against the accused, no matter how relevant that person was to the key allegation, he added.
Downing Street declined to comment on Coulson’s detention, but the ongoing police interest in the former spin doctor is a growing embarrassment for the Prime Minister.
The former News of the World editor was working for David Cameron when he appeared at the Sheridan hearing.
Coulson, who was detained by seven Strathclyde officers in London yesterday morning – the force said it was standard practice for so many to attend – has also previously been arrested by Scotland Yard as part of its ongoing investigation into phone hacking.
“Officers from Strathclyde Police Operation Rubicon detained a 44-year-old man in London this morning under Section 14 of the Criminal Procedures Scotland Act on suspicion of committing perjury before the High Court in Glasgow,” a spokesman for the force said yesterday.
“It would be inappropriate to comment any further at this time.”
During the Sheridan trial in December 2010, Coulson said he had no knowledge of illegal activities by reporters while he was editor of the News of the World. He also claimed: “I don’t accept there was a culture of phone hacking at the News of the World.”
Coulson was arrested last year in relation to Scotland Yard’s long-running investigation into phone hacking at the News of the World. He was held in July on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and corruption, and had his bail extended earlier this month.
He resigned as editor of the Sunday tabloid in 2007, after the paper’s former royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were jailed for phone hacking.
Just months later he was unveiled as director of communications and planning with the Conservative Party. He quit his role as Downing Street communications chief in January last year after admitting the News of the World phone-hacking row was making his job impossible.
He is the first person to be detained as part of the ten-month Operation Rubicon, which has up to 50 officers investigating allegations that scores of Scottish public figures had their phones hacked.
Speaking outside his home, Sheridan, who was initially awarded £200,000 damages from the News of the World over allegations about his sex life, said: “I firmly believe that today marks the first step in the journey towards the quashing of my conviction, which was unsafe and unsound.”
His solicitor, Gordon Dangerfield, added: “We have very strong grounds of appeal and will be lodging a full appeal in due course.”
The firebrand politician has been backed by Labour MP and hacking whistleblower Tom Watson.
“Now that the investigation has taken another serious turn it must be time for authorities to reconsider the verdict against Tommy Sheridan, a man still without his liberty,” he said.
“I still maintain that the jury were not in full possession of the facts when by a narrow margin of eight to six they convicted Sheridan.”
Strathclyde Police would not be drawn on the progress of the wider Operation Rubicon. However the force’s commitment to exposing phone hacking has been widely praised.
Aamer Anwar, Sheridan’s former solicitor who, along with Mr Watson, presented a phone- hacking dossier to Strathclyde Police, said: “I believe Operation Rubicon has worked hard and has been a robust and transparent investigation.
“I am grateful to the dedication officers have shown in what has been a difficult inquiry.”