4 October 2010

Confirmed? Coulson cited to testify in Sheridan trial...

With his usual quick-witted legal instincts, gallimaufrous legal blogger Love and Garbage outpaced the clopping metropolitan press, recognising the combined implications of Sheridan's perjury trial - starting today - and the New York Times investigation into the invasive and illegal journalistic practices of the News of the World. At that time, the paper was edited by one Andy Coulson, now director of communications for David Cameron. As Love and Garbage recognised, the practices of the News of the World - and what its editor might or might not have known about those practices - may be of  distinct interest in the case of HM Advocate v. Sheridan & Sheridan. On the 26th of September, the Sunday Herald ran with this piece, indicating that Coulson had indeed given a precognition to the Sheridan defence, headlined "Downing Street spindoctor dragged into Sheridan case". Would he testify before a Scottish court we all wondered, subject to the formidable cross-examination skills of old-hand advocates, Maggie Scott QC and wur ain Paul McBride QC?  On the 4th of September, Love and Garbage wrote:

"Coulson could be appearing before a judge and jury, answering questions about the culture of the News of the World and its methodology, before any decisions are made south of the border. And if the furore of the past few days dies down – a Scottish court appearance will reignite the embers".

Today, a comment appeared on that blogpost, saying:

"Coulson has been asked for a statement on matters specifically related to the Sheridan case. The phone-tapping and bugging of Sheridan’s car are separate issues, but Coulson was directly involved in events that led to today’s trial and played a key role, that’s why he will be cited to appear as a witness."

Critically, that comment isn't just the idle musings of a casual gobjobber, but appears to originate from one Mr Jim Monaghan. As the Observer of the 24th of September 2006 confirmed:

"We were stretching a point in the article below to describe Jim Monaghan as a spin doctor and aide to Scotland's Solidarity leader, Tommy Sheridan. Mr Monaghan is an unpaid volunteer who has worked as a media co-ordinator but who holds no official position within the party."

That said, Monaghan is mentioned in the media several times across the years as a "Solidarity spokesman", often in response to media questions on the ongoing perjury investigation against the Sheridans. Moreover, a quick look at facebook reveals this page, on which the aforementioned Jim Monaghan remarks:

"it began 6 years ago ... this is the beginning of the end for people like me who are so involved in it."

"Involvement" can take on many hues and I can't vouch for Monaghan's continuing status as an aide to Tommy Sheridan, whether on a permanent or part-time basis.  That said, informality might well suggest a personal connection, making Monaghan's comment all the more convincing. Like good Scots lawyers, we should treat this apparent confirmation tentatively until it has been independently corroborated. Such cautions aside, Monaghan is clearly an individual who remains close to the defence team in this matter. In short, we may well take his affirmative comment as a strong indication, as rumoured, that Coulson will indeed be cited to appear for a wee chat - under oath, mind - about his tenure as editor of the News of the World in the High Court of Justiciary...


  1. Surely McBride wouldn't give a full QC grilling to one of his party colleagues - the party he joined so recently but which, inexplicably, somehow failed to appoint him Advocate General?

  2. Calum,

    I'm quite sure Mr McBride will harry to the full any witness who threatens the interests of his client, as is his professional duty. That said, there are easier ways of making and keeping friends...

  3. What's more, if he is called as a witness Andy Coulson will appear before Alastair Campbell! Not his erstwhile nemesis but a guy who also goes by his senatorial title: Lord Bracadale... still a headline writer's dream though!

  4. Give that man a coconut! Well spotted, Michael.