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7 July 2011

Could Coulson be charged with perjury?

He told the Sheridan trial that he had no "knowledge" of payments to the police.

By George Eaton

Speculation is mounting that several arrests will be made in the phone hacking case over the next 24 hours, potentially including that of Andy Coulson. The Evening Standard puts a figure (£100,000) on the unlawful payments the police received from News International. One source tells the paper: “They were running a criminal enterprise at the News of the World. Serious crimes have been found. The question now is about the scalps. There will be high-profile arrests at the paper.”

But it’s worth noting that if Coulson is ever charged with anything it could be with perjury. During Tommy Sheridan’s trial last December, Coulson was memorably asked by Sheridan (who acted as his own counsel): “did the News of the World pay corrupt police officers?” Coulson replied: “Not to my knowledge.”

But as became clear on Tuesday night, News International has now passed emails to Scotland Yard showing that Coulson authorised payments to police officers in return for help with stories. Then there’s the fact, as I’ve previously noted, that Coulson admitted in 2003 that payments had been made, although he insisted they were “within the law”. A jury of his peers may yet decide otherwise.

The Crown Office has now asked Strathclyde Police to conduct a “preliminary assessment” of witness evidence from the Sheridan trial in light of the latest revelations. Coulson, one senses, is living on borrowed time.

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