LONDON - The former top media adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron was arrested and charged with perjury Wednesday in the trial of a flamboyant former Scottish lawmaker - the latest case tied to allegations of wrongdoing by British tabloid newspapers.
Andy Coulson, 44, was detained by Scottish police at his home in London over an accusation related to testimony he gave in a high-profile case at Glasgow’s High Court in 2010, when politician Tommy Sheridan was convicted of offering a false account in a legal hearing.
Coulson arrived in Glasgow Wednesday afternoon for questioning there, but was not arrested or charged until late Wednesday evening. In Scotland, which uses a different legal system from the rest of Britain, a suspect can be detained by police to answer questions before being formally arrested or charged.
Strathclyde Police said that a report will be submitted to Scottish prosecutors, who will determine whether Coulson faces charges in court. In Scotland, police can charge a suspect but the decision on whether to prosecute rests with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.
Sheridan had won a lawsuit against the now-defunct News of The World tabloid over its claim that he was embroiled in a sex-and-drugs scandal, but was later jailed for three years after a jury at the 2010 trial ruled he had committed perjury when he sued the newspaper.
Coulson was editor of the tabloid when stories about Sheridan were published, and worked as Cameron’s communications director when he gave evidence to the 2010 trial.
The former aide, who left his post at the News of The World in 2007 after a reporter and a private investigator were jailed over phone hacking offenses, told the court that he does not “accept there was a culture of phone hacking’’ at the tabloid.
He maintains that he ordered his reporters to work within the law and said that police officers were not paid for information.
Those assurances have been called into question by revelations of widespread illegal behavior at the paper and allegations, denied by Coulson, that he approved and encouraged the shady practices.
Cameron has maintained he had been right to offer Coulson a “second chance,’’ by making him his media chief, but the former aide’s resignation early last year, his arrest by London police investigating phone hacking, and Wednesday’s detention by Scottish police have raised questions about the British leader’s judgment.