Andy Coulson cleared of perjury as trial collapses

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Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson has been cleared of perjury after the case against him collapsed.

Judge Lord Burns ruled the 47-year-old had no case to answer midway through a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh,

Mr Coulson, who is also the prime minister’s former head of communications, had denied committing perjury at the 2010 trial of former MSP Tommy Sheridan.

His defence team successfully argued that there was no case to answer.

Explaining his ruling, Lord Burns told the jury that perjury was the giving of false evidence under oath which is relevant to the issues in that trial.

Legal submissions

He said the Crown needed to prove that Mr Coulson’s allegedly false evidence in the 2010 Sheridan case was relevant to the issues in that trial, and that was for him as a judge to decide rather than the jury.

Lord Burns said that after two days of legal submissions the Crown had not satisfied him that Mr Coulson’s evidence had been relevant.

The judge formally acquitted Mr Coulson on Monday, but the acquittal was suspended and could not be reported until Wednesday morning while the Crown decided whether it would appeal.

No appeal was made, and Mr Coulson was cleared more than three years after he was first charged.

The charge against Mr Coulson alleged he committed perjury when he told Mr Sheridan’s trial that he had not known about phone hacking at the News of the World until the arrest of the now-defunct tabloid’s royal editor Clive Goodman in 2006.

During Mr Coulson’s perjury trial, the Crown led evidence from Mr Goodman and fellow former News of the World journalists Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup, who are all convicted phone hackers.

After hearing the prosecution evidence, the jury of nine men and six women was sent from the court last week as defence advocate Murdo MacLeod QC outlined an argument that there was no case to answer.

‘Without objection’

Mr MacLeod noted that both Mr Sheridan and the Advocate Depute both said in their closing statements at the 2010 trial that the phone hacking testimony had little relevance to Mr Sheridan’s defence.

Responding to the acquittal, a Crown Office spokesman said: “Andrew Coulson was a defence witness at the trial of Tommy Sheridan. He gave his evidence without objection as to relevancy.

“The Crown indicted Coulson on the basis that he lied during parts of his evidence, in particular that he had no knowledge of phone hacking.

“The trial judge in the Coulson trial, at the conclusion of the prosecution evidence, ruled that this evidence was irrelevant and therefore could not found the basis for a prosecution for perjury. This brings proceedings to an end.”

Prosecutors in Scotland confirmed on Tuesday evening they had dropped charges against two other former executives of the News of the World.

Bob Bird, who had been editor of the newspaper’s Scottish edition, had been charged with perverting the course of justice and his former news editor Douglas Wight with phone hacking and perjury.

The Crown Office said on Tuesday that, after “an extremely thorough investigation of these allegations”, no criminal proceedings would be taken against either Mr Bird or Mr Wight.

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