Press Conference with Aamer Anwar and Tom Watson today

Aamer Anwar, , and Tom Watson MP held a press conference in Glasgow to announce new information they were passing to police about the Tommy Sheridan case. My report on the event can be found here

http://www.firmmagazine.com/features/980/NoTW_and_HMA_v_Thomas_Sheridan%3A_Press_Conference.html

 

 

 

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Sheridan, hacking and the News of the World

During the trial of Tommy Sheridan for perjury in 2010, an offence for which he was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison, his defence argued he had been the victim of a plot by News International and that this had involved Sheridan’s phone being hacked.

Evidence presented to the court showed that police had discovered Sheridan’s personal details in the notebooks of convicted phone hacker and News of the World contractor Glenn Mulcaire.

The defence had argued that information gathered from voicemail and a listening device in Sheridan’s car was used to manufacture evidence in the perjury case, including an alleged video tape of him apparently confessing to visiting a sex club in Manchester.

At Sheridan’s perjury trial, advocate-depute Alex Prentice QC dismissed the significance of phone hacking during his summation to the jury, claiming it was irrelevant to the charge and pointed to the testimony of Detective Chief Superintendent Williams. The police officer had told the jury he found “no evidence” that Sheridan’s voicemail had been accessed illegally.

Prentice also claimed that the contents of the McNeilage tape had not been gathered from any illegal voicemail access, and that no evidence existed of phone or voicemail interception.

The advocate-depute’s claim relied on the testimony of a police detective whose investigation concluded that just one person’s phone had ever been hacked by Mulcaire.

Andrew Coulson

At the trial News of the World editor Andrew Coulson testified to having no knowledge of Sheridan’s phone being hacked and that “no culture of hacking” existed at the newspaper. Coulson also claimed he was never in contact with Mulcaire and that he did not even know his name until Mulcaire had been arrested, telling the court: “I never met him, spoke to him or emailed him.”

Coulson did however admit that the newspaper used Mulcaire’s company, 9 Consultancy, revealing that he had once asked a NotW department head to reduce the amount of money the company was being paid.

The perjury trial was also told by Coulson that his staff did not pay police officers, replying to the defence’s question with: “Not to my knowledge.”

However, the BBC recently reported that “e-mails, which appear to show that Mr Coulson authorised the payments, have been passed to the police”.

Has Coulson committed perjury? Whatever the answer to that question, another more complicated one arises: does it affect Sheridan’s own conviction for perjury?

Scottish legal writer “Lallands Peat Worrier” points out that Coulson was a witness for the defence and not the prosecution, making it more difficult to argue that Coulson’s evidence formed a key part of the Crown’s case against Sheridan.

However, News International employees Bob Bird and Douglas Wight, as well as NotW solicitor Kenneth Lang, were indeed Crown witnesses. All three were questioned in court about phone hacking.

If it also emerges that the Scottish News of the World intercepted voice messages, questions will be raised about Bird, Wight and Lang’s evidence.

Emails

One of the more contentious parts of Sheridan’s trial (as in many other trials) was the process of “discovery” of evidence by the defence.

One example was the claim made by Coulson, Bird and Lang. They all insisted that two years’ worth of email records belonging to News Group Newspapers had been lost when the data was allegedly transferred to India.

But in January, The Independent newspaper reported that those “lost” emails had now been found.

Bird was forced to apologise for, in his words, “inadvertently misleading the court”.

Given that these emails are the source of the new revelations about NotW’s phone hacking activities, Sheridan’s defence lawyers will surely demand to see them?

Conclusion

Crown witnesses during the perjury trial testified that any notion of Sheridan’s phone being hacked was “far-fetched” or rejected the assertion as mere “conspiracy theory”.

While under cross-examination, Coulson himself said that any claims Sheridan’s phone was being hacked can be true in “the parallel universe that exists only in [Sheridan’s] mind”.

Now that widely reported new allegations say that NotW, under Coulson’s editorship, hacked so many people’s phones (including one belonging to a murdered child, phones belonging to the families of 7/7 bombing victims and the phones of dead soldiers) is it inconceivable that a politician suing the newspaper for slander would also be having his phone hacked?

More to the point, is it actually believable that NotW would not hack Sheridan’s phone?

If the jury at the perjury trial had been aware of this new information, would the verdict on Sheridan have been different?

One thing is for sure. Serious questions must be asked about Sheridan’s conviction for perjury.

Is his conviction unsound now that even more doubt has been raised about so many key witness?

Strathclyde Police and the Crown Office must now set to work immediately in finding out the truth.

Update 

BBC Scotland is reporting:

“Witness statements at the Tommy Sheridan perjury trial are to be probed following new allegations in the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

The Crown Office has asked Strathclyde Police for a “preliminary assessment” and to hand any findings to prosecutors for possible further action.

Those who gave evidence at the trial included Bob Bird, Douglas Wight and former editor Andy Coulson.”

Link

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Downfall, a review.

“Once you hear the details of victory, it is hard to distinguish it from a defeat”
JOHN PAUL SARTRE

A case such as that of Tommy Sheridan’s 2010 trial for perjury will generate interest for years to come. Witnesses called to the High Court in Glasgow included the Scottish editor of the News of the World, the Prime Minister’s chief spin doctor, three self-confessed swingers and five former MSPs.

Continued Here

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From Our Own Correspondent.

I normally like Iain Macwhiter in the Herald but his piece today ( see Here ) inspired this attempt at satire.

Last year The Cairo Herald’s  leading  political commentator Hosni Al’Macwhirter gives his own unique insight on the dangers the so called “internet” posed to Egyptian society. Given this years events in  Tahrir Square we thought readers would be interested in the insight this doyen of the Cairo press corps showed even then

If the internet is above the law, then we all may suffer

Yesterday, the Egyptian  confirmed that it intends to make sectarian hate crime and attempts to overthrow the government on the internet an indictable offence, with a penalty of up to five hundred years imprisonment.

Really? well if If I gave vent to sectarian hate crime in this column,or indeed called for a demonstration in a square somewhere, the editor would go to jail for publishing it and so would I, and a good thing to.

There is no reason why this should not apply to an internet publication. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter operate within Egyptian jurisdiction, and are therefore subject to the law of our land, otherwise they could be prevented from operating here. The problem here isn’t one of law, but of enforcement. So far the politicians and crucially the secret police  have not sought to enforce the law on the net. But the truth is that no one has really tried. I’m not sure why – they know where they, and their families  live.

Of course, internet libertarians and other subversive dogs  insist that we are living in a new world and that there should not and cannot be any controls on cyberspace.

Judges and politicians are tin pot Pharaohs , they say, incapable of resisting the tide of free speech being unleashed by technology.

Well, we all abhor censorship, but most of us also accept that death threats against our brave security forces  and trying to overthrow a lawful government should not be allowed. Nor are we prepared to tolerate the persecution or ridicule of our noble president.

The police relentlessly pursue Islamic Militants  that work over the internet with the co-operation of hosting sites and service providers. If it is possible to trace and prosecute them it is possible, surely, to pursue anyone who breaks the law, given the will. Even those who try to organise violent marches

People may disagree with such controls, but it is the law, and the law is there to be enforced. One day there may be an election where people can vote to change that law, if one of the officially allowed political parties argues for it,  but until that far off day the law is the law is the law.

Some years ago, a very senior local  dictator turned to the courts to prevent stories appearing in the press about his wife who had, due to stress, inadvertently stolen millions of dollars from the exchequer.

Life in the Cairo goldfish bowl was proving too great a burden on this delicate personality. Out of respect, and of course fear, the press agreed to a moratorium on this story, though everyone in the Ruling Party knew about it. Inshalla, this happened before the coming of Twitter. Should the press have outed the woman and exposed our president  I mean the anonymous dictator? Of course not, you say.

But the so called “Democracy campaigners” might have thought differently. Indeed, some might argue it was a conspiracy of silence and that the public had a right to know that this powerful tyrant had domestic difficulties.

But I am increasingly uncomfortable with the arrogant assumption of the people who use the internet  that their domains should be above Egyptian  law. Social media, and the instant access to the public domain afforded by Twitter, pose a threat to the justice system itself.

We may be about to discover that internet users can be subjected to the law of the land and that this is going to happen through exemplary prosecutions and a long stay in the interrogation chambers of the State Security services.

No one should be above the law, and if material is published on the internet that is illegal, then the people responsible, the Zuckerbergs, Bezos and Wales  may find themselves answering for their actions in a small room full of angry men with clubs.

The internet is currently like the wilds of the Sahara, but I think the Al-Mukhabarat Al-A’ma has just ridden into town.

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