With a giant list of Scots who have had their phones hacked but precisely, erm, zero arrests, it is perhaps unsurprising that first minister Alex Salmond was tetchy about the matter when quizzed at Leveson yesterday:
“I’ve asked the Lord Advocate for assurances that the matters which are coming to the attention under Operation Rubicon will be properly, thoroughly investigated by a well-resourced investigation, that they’ll go where the evidence leads without fear or favour”
But Mr Jay never mentioned that it was the Lord Advocate — Scotland’s chief law officer — on whom a top QC claimed undue influence was brought to bear by News International to prosecute Tommy Sheridan:
“No doubt the Lord Advocate was leant on by Rupert Murdoch’s employees.”
And in contrast with London, the police and legal establishment in Scotland have refused to reveal the details of meetings with Murdoch representatives. Scrapbook has seen freedom of information requests — rejected by the authorities — which ask for details including:
- Meetings between News International and prosecutors
- Meetings between News International and police
The only person to have been arrested so far by the supposedly “well-resourced” Operation Rubicon is English — and that was for perjury, not hacking.
With former News Of The World editor and Number 10 adviser Andy Coulson detained by Strathclyde Police for alleged perjury during the trial of Tommy Sheridan. Let’s take a look at what he told the court under oath.
On Glenn Mulcaire’s phone hacking:
“I never knew him as an individual, I never met him, I never spoke to him, I never heard his name until the Clive Goodman affair started. But I knew his consultancy was used in an entirely legitimate way during my time as editor.”
Asked about oversight “condoning” hacking in the newsroom:
“I don’t accept there was a culture of phone hacking at the NoW. There was a very unfortunate, to put it mildly, case involving Clive Goodman. No one was more sorry about it than me; that’s why I resigned.”
Quizzed on the testimony of former NOTW hack Sean Hoare, that Coulson told him to use the “dark arts”. Coulson said:
“I have absolutely no recollection of telling him that.”
On the hacking of Tommy Sheridan’s voicemail:
“I’m saying that I had absolutely no knowledge of it. I certainly didn’t instruct anyone to do anything at the time or anything else which was untoward.”
A perjury trial may well beget a perjury trial.
A 73 year-old woman braved the cold and rain yesterday to confront Rupert Murdoch on the hacking of her phone while she was fighting cancer. Alice Sheridan was targeted by the News Of The World as the mother of Scots politician Tommy Sheridan – but the pensioner was brushed aside by Murdoch’s entourage, with the billionaire refusing to acknowledge her.
And while the media are transfixed by revelations on the corrupt relationship between the Met Police and News International, legal developments in Scotland could yet bring the Edinburgh-based Lothian and Borders Police into the frame.
While the East of Scotland force still refuses to release details of meetings with Murdoch’s journalists, press reports suggest that a News International witness could have perjured herself in a criminal trial after coming under pressure from News Of The World.
In an article mysteriously missing from their website, Scotland’s Daily Record reveals an escort girl has given new evidence to the police investigating News International which “paints an entirely different picture” to that she gave during the prosecution of Tommy Sheridan.
Fiona McGuire reportedly said:
“I have done right by Tommy. Read into into that what you like … I have tried to set the record straight.”
Ms McGuire says that she was pushed into making the claims against Sheridan by The News of the World, who she alleges paid her money and threatened her with photos that did not exist.
Sheridan was convicted of perjury after a libel case against defunct tabloid. Ms McGuire’s interview with the paper was the central issue of that libel case, and thus amongst the principle issues of the perjury trial.
There are now five active criminal investigations into Murdoch’s companies.
The geographic scope of the Leveson Inquiry into the phone hacking scandal could be widened with the news that Scottish solicitor Aamer Anwar will be making a submission to the investigation. The high-profile legal activist said:
“We welcome the opportunity to make submissions to the Leveson Inquiry and will be highlighting the fact that criminality by the News of the World was not exclusive to England, but also rampant in Scotland.”
Anwar famously defended former Scottish Socialist leader Tommy Sheridan in his perjury trial, where the defence claimed that convicted hacker and NOTW employee Glen Mulcaire had accessed Sheridan’s phone illegally. Andy Coulson insisted that he had no knowledge of any hacking, and that Mulcaire had been paid for, erm, “legitimate services”.
As reported in August, Scrapbook understands evidence given by figures including Andy Coulson, Bob Bird and Douglas Wight may be of relevance to Strathclyde Police’s Operation Rubicon, the Scottish equivalent of the Met’s Weeting and Elveden inquiries into hacking, perjury and corruption.
To think that the “single rogue reporter” defence was still being used in July.
Ex-News of the World editors who gave evidence in the Tommy Sheridan trial are feeling the pressure as Strathclyde police steps up Operation Rubicon – the Scottish investigation into phone hacking and alleged perjury. Scrapbook understands that testimony given by figures including Andy Coulson, Bob Bird (former Scottish editor) and Douglas Wight (former news editor) may be of relevance to police inquiries.
More than 40 officers are currently assigned to the case, investigating evidence given during the trial as well as allegations of phone hacking north of the border. The number of officers attached has reportedly risen as high as 50 and there is a growing expectation that there will be arrests before too long.
The Herald reported last month that the Strathclyde force were not worried about a “Met-style scandal” - as contact between high level officers and the media had been “minimal.” Although Lothian & Borders police conducted the original Sheridan perjury probe, the Strathclyde force have been assigned the operation by the Crown Office because Coulson & Co’s alleged perjury took place in Glasgow High Court.
A lucky escape for Lothian & Borders who are doing their damndest to dodge questions about their relationship with News International.
The News of the World hacked multiple individuals connected with a libel trial, it has emerged. After Scots politician Tommy Sheridan told a court his mobile phone was targeted, the Daily Record has now reported that the newspaper also hacked its own star witness in the 2006 Sherdian v News Group Newspapers case.
The revelation raises questions as to the potential hacking of other witnesses and what knowledge former editor Andy Coulson had of this. The Murdoch-owned media group was ordered to pay £200,000 in damages to Sheridan over claims that he had attended sex clubs — but the former MSP is now serving a three-year sentence for perjury after he was convicted of lying under oath.
At his trial last year, Sheridan showed a courtroom notes apparently taken by convicted phone hacker Glen Mulcaire in 2004, which included his mobile phone number and voicemail PIN code. After testifying for the company in 2006, former socialist activist Fiona McGuire was recently told by police that she was also targeted by News International.
Asked at Sheridan’s 2010 perjury trial if the News of the World paid corrupt police officers, Andy Coulson replied “Not to my knowledge.” He also denied knowledge of “illegal phone hacking”, and did not accept that there was a “culture of phone hacking” at the paper. Then working for David Cameron in Downing Street, his legal fees were paid by News International despite growing evidence of criminality at the company.
As he bides his time in HMP Castle Huntly, doubtless we haven’t heard the last from Mr. Sheridan.
After Scots politician Tommy Sheridan was convicted of perjury in his legal struggle with the News of the World, prosecutors have refused to release papers that could reveal improper meetings with News International before the former MSP was charged.
As with phone hacking in England, the Sheridan case has brought scrutiny to an invidious relationship between News International and the justice system, with one of Scotland’s most prominent lawyers, Ian Hamilton QC, claiming undue influence was brought to bear on Scotland’s top legal officer:
“No doubt the Lord Advocate was leant on by Rupert Murdoch’s employees.”
The case has long been the subject of concerns over due process after key prosecution witnesses were offered payments by News of the World. Revelations last month that Andy Coulson “condoned police payoffs” led to a recent review of witness statements by Strathclyde Police.
A recent Freedom of Information request asking for documents relating to the Sheridan prosecution — that would encompass details of possible meetings with Murdoch aides — was stonewalled by the Lord Advocate’s office without conducting legally required public interest tests, Scrapbook understands.
While the Scottish fallout from News of the World’s nefarious practices has generated fewer column inches than hacking cases in English courtrooms, aspects of the murky Sheridan case, such as allegations of perjury against Andy Coulson, could yet turn the screws on News International.
Expect further revelations on the Sheridan/Murdoch battle later in the week.
The fate of convicted perjurer Tommy Sheridan is just dripping with poetic irony. After defeating News International in his defamation action following allegations of marital infidelity Sheridan stood outside the Court of Session in Edinburgh and likened himself to Scottish football team Gretna F.C., who had recently defied the odds to appear in the Scottish Cup final:
“Gretna have made it into Europe for the first time in their lives, but what we have done in the last five weeks is the equivalent of Gretna taking on Real Madrid in the Bernabeu and beating them on penalties, that’s what we’ve done.”
Two years later Gretna crashed out of the Scottish Premier League and went into insolvent liquidation.
Forget the Bernabeu – it’s Barlinnie Sheridan’s heading for!