According to the BBC, a 39 year old mn has been detained by Strathclyde Police and subsequently charged with various offences. The detention appears to part of the Operation Rubicon investigation into allegations of phone hacking and perjury in connection with the trial of Mr Sheridan.
The BBC reported that the 39 year old man “has been charged with perjury, conspiracy to hack telephones, and multiple charges of conspiracy to obtain the (sic) personal data.”
Andy Coulson, formerly of News International and latterly of Downing Street, has already been charged in connection with te Rubicon Investigation.
Of the three witnesses from the News of the World at the Sheridan Trial, neither Mr Bird nor Mr Coulson is now aged 39.
The matter will now be reported to the procurator fiscal.
Charges of conspiracy are noteworthy, as a result of their rarity. One cannot conspire on one’s own. In addition, the charge of conspiring with persons to the prosecutor unknown can be seen as an effort to charge a person for a one man conspiracy.
It will be very interesting to see, should this matter come to court, with whom the 39 year old man is alleged to have conspired.
Will this development assist Mr Sheridan, as undoubtedly his supporters, such as Tom Watson MP will proclaim?
It clearly depends on what happens with any prosecution arising, but, apart from Mr Bird’s evidence regarding the so-called McNeilage Tape, there appeared little evidence which could have been critical to the verdict.
Mr Coulson was in fact cited and called as a defence witness and even though the witness believed to be the 39 year old referred to in this piece was formally a Crown witness, this was described in the brilliant James Doleman’s excellent and indispensable Sheridan Trial Blog as follows:-
“After explaining to the court that the next witness was being called by the Crown as a courtesy to Mr Sheridan, and therefore would not be seeking any evidence in chief from the witness, Alex Prentice QC called Douglas Wight as a witness, confirmed his name, his age of 37, occupation as a News Of The World (NoW) journalist and residence as London, then returned to his seat.”
The man charged will, and rightly so, be treated as an innocent man until a court declares otherwise.
Establishing perjury, if there is guilt, can be very difficult, especially where called as a defence witness whose evidence does not achieve an acquittal. Conspiracy is also a notoriously tough charge to prosecute, in the absence of “smoking gun” testimony.
The Sheridan case looks likely to retain interest for some considerable time yet to come.
Posted by Paul McConville
Addendum – It has now been confirmed that, as I thought, the man charged is former News of the World journalist Douglas Wight. The passage I quoted above from the Sheridan Trial blog relates to him, as can now be seen.