Andy Coulson, former aide to Britain’s leader, detained by police
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LONDON -- Prime Minister David Cameron’s former press aide was taken into custody by Scottish police Wednesday on suspicion of perjury during a 2010 trial related to Britain’s phone hacking scandal.
Scottish police gave no details on the arrest beyond the customary statement that officers had ‘detained a 44-year-old male in London this morning ... on suspicion of committing perjury before the High Court in Glasgow.” However, he was widely identified by British media as Andy Coulson, Cameron’s former aide.
The detention was related to testimony Coulson gave in the trial of Tommy Sheridan, a former Scottish member of the European Parliament who was convicted of lying during a legal hearing.
Coulson was editor from 2003 to 2007 of the now-defunct News of the World tabloid, which was closed down last year by media owner Rupert Murdoch amid revelations that the newspaper had been involved in phone hacking.
In a 2006 civil case, Sheridan had successfully sued the News of the World for libel over stories of his adulterous conduct in swinging clubs. Although awarded about $300,000, Sheridan was later convicted of perjury and sentenced to three years in jail.
During his time as Cameron’s press officer, Coulson took the witness stand in Sheridan’s perjury trial in which Sheridan claimed he had been targeted by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, known to have carried out phone interceptions for the News of the World. Coulson denied knowledge of phone hacking during his term as editor.
On Wednesday, Coulson was taken by Scottish police from his London home for questioning in Glasgow, Scotland. Unlike in England, Scottish law decrees that suspects are not arrested but detained when under suspicion.
Coulson had previously been arrested but released on bail on suspicion of illegal phone hacking and illegal payments to police officers in the London-based investigations into the widespread phone hacking and surveillance carried out over the last decade by News International and other papers in search of scoops. He is one of more than 40 people to have been arrested in the scandal by British police.
The revelations that the News of the World had hacked into the phone of teenage murder victim Milly Dowler last summer triggered public outrage and led to the paper’s closure, several civil and police inquiries and compensation payments by the Murdoch empire amounting so far to millions of dollars.
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-- Janet Stobart