May 31 (Bloomberg) -- Andy Coulson, a past editor of News Corp.’s News of the World tabloid in Britain and former press chief to U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, was arrested and charged with perjury, Scottish police said.
Coulson, 44, was detained yesterday in London and later charged following an interview in Glasgow, Sergeant Jim Telford of Scotland’s Strathclyde Police said today in a phone interview. Coulson was released and a “report will be submitted” to the prosecutor, Telford said.
The case relates to former Scottish lawmaker Tommy Sheridan, who sued the News of the World for defamation in 2006 over stories about adultery and visiting swingers clubs -- claims he has repeatedly denied. While he won that case, he was later accused of lying under oath in the trial and was sentenced in 2011 to three years in prison.
“Andy Coulson will vigorously contest the perjury allegations made against him yesterday by Strathclyde Police, should they ever result in a trial,” his lawyer Jo Rickards said today in an e-mailed statement.
Coulson was previously arrested in July by London police as part of a separate probe into phone hacking at the tabloid shuttered last year by News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch in a bid to contain public anger over the scandal.
When Coulson testified at Sheridan’s perjury trial, he denied the lawmaker’s claim that phone hacking was widespread at the newspaper and said he had no knowledge of illegal activities by reporters. Coulson, who edited the tabloid from 2003 to 2007, had resigned after a reporter was jailed for phone hacking and said the practice was limited to one journalist.
Sheridan defended himself in the case and accused Coulson of using “dark arts” to get stories, the Guardian newspaper reported. Since the hacking scandal erupted again last year, police evidence emerged that Sheridan’s family and associates were phone-hacking targets of the tabloid, the Guardian said.
Coulson denied Sheridan’s claim that there was a culture of phone hacking at the tabloid and said he’d never heard of the private investigator at the center of the scandal until 2006, when the man was put on trial, according to the Guardian. Coulson testified the incident was unfortunate.
Aamer Anwar, who represented Sheridan during the libel trial, told the U.K. Press Association yesterday that in July he gave Scottish police a file related to phone hacking and perjury in the case.
Cameron Communications Chief
Cameron hired Coulson as communications chief for the Conservative Party when it was in opposition in 2007, a few months after the editor resigned from the News of the World. When Cameron was elected in 2010, Coulson became his press chief.
The relationship has been criticized by News Corp.’s critics at a media-ethics inquiry in London as an example of too-cozy ties between U.K. politicians and Murdoch’s media empire. Coulson quit his Cameron role last year after police reopened the phone-hacking probe. He is free on bail and hasn’t been charged in that case.
Sheridan was found guilty in Glasgow in December 2010 of lying under oath during his defamation lawsuit. In the 2006 case, he was awarded 200,000 pounds ($310,000) in damages over the sex stories -- claims Sheridan denied.
Coulson quit the News of the World in 2007 after former private detective Glenn Mulcaire and reporter Clive Goodman were imprisoned for phone hacking. He lost a lawsuit in December to have his legal fees covered by News Corp. as he faces the criminal phone-hacking probe.
News Corp. closed the News of the World in July after police investigations and civil lawsuits revealed the practice went far beyond Goodman and Mulcaire. The newspaper accessed the voice-mail messages of celebrities, crime victims and politicians for stories while Coulson was in charge of the weekly tabloid.
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