Scottish police are investigating the possibility that Andy Coulson, former director of communications for Prime Minister David Cameron, committed perjury in a court case last year.
Mr. Coulson, who resigned as editor of the News of the World newspaper before Mr. Cameron hired him, testified last December in a case involving Tommy Sheridan, a former member of the Scottish Parliament.
At the trial Mr. Coulson denied knowing that the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper, recently shut down, paid corrupt police officers for tipoffs and said he had no knowledge of illegal activities by its reporters.
Several weeks ago Mr. Coulson was arrested by London police on suspicion of phone hacking and of authorizing bribes to police officers.
Bob Bird, the News of the World’s Scottish editor, and Douglas Wight, the Scottish edition’s former news editor, also testified at the Sheridan trial. Mr. Bird denied being part of a “culture of phone tapping” and Mr. Wight said he was not aware of any payment for illegal activities.
Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton of Scotland’s Strathclyde police said they had begun an investigation into allegations that witnesses gave perjured testimony.
Mr. Sheridan’s lawyer Aamar Anwar said he provided police recently with a detailed dossier of allegations of perjury, phone hacking and breach of data and called for “a robust investigation,” the Guardian newspaper reported.
Mr. Sheridan originally won a libel action against News of the World after the tabloid ran a story accusing him of being an adulterer who regularly visited swingers’ clubs.
But last January, at a new trial, he was jailed for three years after being found guilty of perjury during the earlier court case.
Meanwhile, fresh attention has been focused on Rupert Murdoch’s son James after two former News of the World executives accused him of misleading a parliamentary committee in evidence he gave earlier this week. He has denied the accusation.
James Murdoch is chairman of British Sky Broadcasting, whose board will meet next Thursday and may review his position. Lord Paul Myners, a former treasury minister, called recently for him to step down as chairman.
“There are sufficient doubts about his business judgment,” he said.
In another development, a former journalist for the Daily Mirror tabloid said the News of the World was not alone in phone hacking. The practice was “endemic” at the Mirror while he worked there between 1998 and 2000, said James Hipwell, 45.
He worked in the business section of the paper and said show business reports working next to him regularly intercepted voice mail messages.
Mr. Hipwell said he would be willing to give evidence to a public inquiry into hacking by Lord Justice Brian Leveson.
Trinity Mirror, publisher of the Mirror, denied his claims. “Our journalists work within the criminal law and the Press Complaints Commission code of conduct,” it said.
Mr. Hipwell was fired from the Mirror in 2000 after he was accused of buying shares, then tipping them in a column he wrote for the paper. He served 59 days in jail for market manipulation.
(Ray Moseley is a London-based former chief European correspondent of the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com.)