Andy Coulson, a former aide to U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and one-time editor of News Corp.’s defunct News of the World, was acquitted of perjury by a Scottish judge midway through a trial.
“You are acquitted,” Judge David Burns said to Coulson dismissing the charges Wednesday and ruling that prosecutors hadn’t presented a case to answer.
The decision comes almost a year after the 47-year-old Coulson was convicted by a London jury of phone hacking in a verdict that capped a three-year scandal over the practices of journalists at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. newspapers. Murdoch had closed the News of the World, then Britain’s best-selling newspaper, in 2011 in a bid to contain the controversy after revelations that reporters had listened to messages on the mobile phone of a murdered teenager.
In the Scottish case, Coulson was accused of lying about whether he was aware that News of the World employees were involved in phone hacking. He had testified that he had no knowledge of the practice in 2010 at the trial of Tommy Sheridan, a Scottish lawmaker who was charged with committing perjury in a lawsuit against the News of the World in 2006.
Judge Burns ruled at the end of the prosecution’s case “that this evidence was irrelevant and therefore could not” form the basis for a prosecution for perjury, a spokesman for prosecutors in Scotland said.
Former reporters from the weekly tabloid came forward in the Scottish trial to implicate Coulson in phone-hacking practices.
‘Difficult Few Years’
Coulson “is pleased that he has finally been vindicated,” his lawyers Livingstone Brown said in a statement. “He hopes that he and his family can now get on with their lives, and put what have been a very difficult few years behind them.”
Clive Goodman, the paper’s former royal reporter, said May 20 that Coulson learned of the illegal practice not long after he became News of the World editor.
The Edinburgh jury hadn’t been told about the previous criminal case or that Coulson had served several months in a London jail.
The Scottish prosecution began more than three years ago when Coulson was arrested by police raided his London home at dawn in May 2012, his lawyers said in a statement following the ruling.