Andy Coulson, who went on to serve as Prime Minister David Cameron’s director of communications after his editorship of the defunct tabloid, did not appear in person for a preliminary hearing at the High Court in Glasgow yesterday.
It is alleged the 46-year-old made false claims in 2010 while under oath as a witness in the trial of Sheridan, the former Scottish Socialist Party leader, and his wife Gail.
Although Coulson, from Preston, Kent, was not present, a sizeable media contingent was in court for the hour-long hearing before Lord Boyd of Duncansby.
The three-page indictment alleges that Coulson falsely testified under oath that before the arrest of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and News of the World journalist Clive Goodman in 2006, he did not know that Goodman was involved in phone hacking, and did so together with Mulcaire. It claims he falsely said he had not heard of Mulcaire; did not know Goodman made payments to him; did not have any e-mail exchanges with Goodman in relation to Mulcaire; and did not know that Mulcaire was employed by the News of the World.
The indictment goes on to allege that Coulson falsely said he had no knowledge of payments made to police officers by staff during his time as editor.
According to the indictment, Coulson was in fact aware of a number of instances of phone hacking at the News of the World between 2002 and 2006 while he was employed as editor and acting editor.
These involved murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler; Kimberley Quinn, the mistress of former home secretary David Blunkett; and James Bond actor Daniel Craig, it adds. It also claims that between 2002 and 2007, while editor and deputy editor of the newspaper, Coulson understood that payments had been made to police officers by Goodman. These were made to procure a “green book” containing telephone numbers relating to the Royal Family and their staff, the indictment states. Prosecutors also allege that Coulson had heard of Mulcaire who, as well as being a private investigator, was contracted to the News of the World.
It is claimed that Coulson knew Goodman made payments to Mulcaire of £500 a week, followed by payments amounting to £4,800.
The prosecution also alleges that Coulson knew Mulcaire was employed by the News of the World and had e-mail exchanges about him with Goodman.
Sheridan was awarded £200,000 in damages after winning a defamation case against the News of the World eight years ago. The newspaper printed allegations about his private life, which included claims he visited a swingers’ club.
Sheridan was later jailed for three years for committing perjury during the case, but maintains his innocence.
No pleas for Coulson were entered and another hearing was set for 21 October.