British PM to address hacking as Andy Coulson faces arrest
British Prime Minister David Cameron is to hold a press conference today on the phone hacking scandal that has led to the closure of News of the World and the imminent arrest of his former press spokesmanAndy Coulson.
Mr Coulson, Editor of the News of the World until 2007 has been contacted by detectives working on Operation Weeting, the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into phone hacking at the newspaper, and asked to present himself at a central London police station this morning.
There he is expected to be arrested and questioned over allegations that he knew about, or was somehow involved in, phone hacking.
Mr Coulson was editor of the Sunday newspaper from 2003 until 2007. He resigned over the phone hacking affair in 2007 when Glenn Mulcaire and Clive Goodman were jailed after admitting intercepting voicemails while working for the paper.
He then took on a role as the director of Communications at Downing Street before resigning in January this year, amid further phone hacking allegations.
Mr Coulson has already been questioned by police about phone hacking in November last year. Earlier this week was revealed that police are to investigate emails that allegedly link him to the illegal payment by journalists to police officers.
And yesterday it was revealed he faces a third police inquiry.
He is facing a perjury investigation after Scottish police after they announced they are to examine testimony in the Tommy Sheridan trial.
The Crown Office yesterday (thurs) asked Strathclyde Police to conduct a “preliminary assessment” of witness evidence in the trial in light of the latest allegations in the phone hacking scandal.
Mr Coulson, then Downing Street director of communications, told the trial last December that he had no knowledge of illegal activities by reporters while he was editor of the tabloid newspaper.
He also denied knowing the paper paid corrupt police officers for tip-offs, but it has been reported this week that News International has uncovered e-mails showing payments were made during his editorship.
Although Strathclyde Police refused to provide details, it is understood they will concentrate on the testimony of Mr Coulson, Bob Bird, the News of the World’s Scottish editor, and Douglas Wight, the Scottish edition’s former news editor.
They will then report to the Area Procurator Fiscal in Glasgow, who will consider whether there is enough prima facie evidence to justify a perjury investigation.
Mr Sheridan, a former socialist MSP, was jailed in January for himself committing perjury during a successful defamation action against the News of the World. The newspaper had claimed he was an adulterer who visited a swingers’ club.
Aamer Anwar, Mr Sheridan’s solicitor, and Tom Watson, a Labour MP, yesterday (thurs) held a press conference in which they announced they are to submit a dossier to police outlining “serious allegations” about News of the World witnesses.
Mr Anwar said: “It is now time that those at the top of this organisation were arrested and questioned if they are not above the law.”
Jurors in the Sheridan trial were told that e-mails about the newspaper’s investigation of him had been lost when News International archived their records in Mumbai, India.
But Mr Watson said he had been told by the Information Commissioner last week that this was not the case and the missing e-mails may have contributed to the guilty verdict.
During his trial, Mr Sheridan raised allegations that his mobile phone had been hacked by Glenn Mulcaire, the private detective hired by the Sunday tabloid.
Copies of his notebook, which included Sheridan’s contact details, were produced in evidence during the trial but Mr Coulson testified that: “I don't accept there was a culture of phone hacking at the News of the World."
When asked by Sheridan, who was conducting his own defence, whether his newspaper had made payments to police officers, Mr Coulson answered: “Not to my knowledge.”
He also denied that his reporters practised journalistic “dark arts” and a company owned by Mulcaire was paid £105,000 a year for legitimate services.
Mr Bird denied being part of a “culture of phone tapping” and Mr Wight, who is now the newspaper’s books editor, testified he was not aware of any payment for illegal activities.