Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Scots Crown Office prosecution of journalist Andy Coulson moved for third time, four week trial expected to cost more than £2m over perjury allegations in Sheridan case

Coulson trial date moved for third time. THE TRIAL of Andy Coulson, the former editor of the News of the World, for alleged perjury is due to start this Friday 15 May 2015 after being moved several times.

The trial - HMA v Andrew Coulson – is the only case resulting from a multi million pound Scottish Police operation condemned “Operation Rubicon” .

The trial is expected to last up to four weeks and cost taxpayers more than two million pounds.

Coulson, who went on to become David Cameron’s director of communications after leaving the News of the World, is accused of lying on oath during the trial of Solidarity party leader and former MSP, Tommy Sheridan, for perjury in Glasgow in December 2010. Sheridan was later convicted of perjury and sentenced to three years in prison.

Mr Coulson denies all of the charges against him

Scotland's Judicial Office initially said: "The trial diet in the case of HM Advocate v Andrew Coulson, previously set for Monday 11 May 2015, has been adjourned. The case will now call at 10am on Tuesday 12 May at the High Court in Edinburgh (Lawnmarket Court 3), to deal with any outstanding procedural matters and to fix another date for the trial to proceed."

The Judicial Office then updated their statement with another change of date: "A new trial diet in the case of HM Advocate v Andrew Coulson has been fixed following a hearing at the High Court in Edinburgh. The case will call at 10am on Friday 15 May 2015 at Edinburgh High Court (Lawnmarket Court 3).”

Coulson, the former editor of the News of the World who became Downing Street director of communications after Cameron came to power in 2010, was due to face a jury during the last weeks of this year's general election campaign, however legal argument led to the case being postponed until this week, removing a potential political embarrassment for the prime minister before the polls closed.

Coulson is charged with three counts of perjury relating to testimony he gave in the 2010 trial of Scottish politician Tommy Sheridan. The former News International journalist, who was working for Downing Street at the time, was called by the defence to answer questions about his role at the now defunct News of the World and his knowledge of the illegal interception of voicemails carried out by the newspaper's staff while he was editor. Sheridan was later convicted of perjury and sentenced to three years in prison and Coulson resigned from the government a month later.

In the wake of the 2011 phone-hacking scandal, Strathclyde Police launched "Operation Rubicon" to investigate allegations of misconduct at Sheridan's trial. As a result, in 2012 seven Scottish police officers detained the former editor at his home in Dulwich, South London at 6.30am and drove him to Glasgow. Shortly afterwards he was arrested and charged.

Also facing legal action are the paper's former Scottish editor Bob Bird and  senior reporter Douglas Wight. However Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland of the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) has not announced any decision on whether prosecutors will proceed in the remaining two cases.

A similar operation run in England & Wales by the Crown Prosecution Service called "Operation Elveden", costing the public over £20 million has all but collapsed.

Nine out of the remaining twelve prosecutions against journalists – which included Andy Coulson - have been dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the entire operation branded an expensive taxpayer funded political witch hunt against the media.

Four more reporters were cleared at the Old Bailey of bribing public officials, taking the total number found not guilty by a jury to 14

An urgent review of the £20 million investigation was ordered last month, after the Court of Appeal quashed the conviction of former News of the World reporter Lucy Panton, who was the first reporter to be found guilty.

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