(1)If any person lawfully sworn as a witness or as an interpreter in a judicial proceeding wilfully makes a statement material in that proceeding, which he knows to be false or does not believe to be true, he shall be guilty of perjury, and shall, on conviction thereof on indictment, be liable to penal servitude for a term not exceeding seven years, or to imprisonment . . . F1 for a term not exceeding two years, or to a fine or to both such penal servitude or imprisonment and fine.
I guess it's down to interpretation.
Did the judge use jurisprudence?
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Welcome to Tommy's Lawyer, a blog by Tommy and Gail Sheridan's lawyer, Gordon Dangerfield. I intend to use it to publish information which arises from my work on Tommy and Gail's legal issues, and which I think the public should know. All blog posts will appear here on this page, hopefully daily, as I get them written.
HMA V COULSON: SCOTTISH CROWN SABOTAGES ITS OWN PROSECUTION
JUNE 3, 2015 TOMMYSLAWYER
by Gordon Dangerfield
In a new low, even for an institution so rotten to its core, the Scottish Crown has deliberately sabotaged its own prosecution of Andy Coulson, the Prime Minister’s former Director of Communications, and allowed him today to walk free.
I’ll set out first what you’ll have learned by the end of this post, and then I’ll give you the chapter and verse.
• The Scottish Crown quite deliberately failed to call Tommy Sheridan to explain to the jury, and to the court, precisely why he called Andy Coulson as a “hostile” defence witness; and why Coulson’s lies helped send Tommy to jail:
• The Scottish Crown was repeatedly reminded of information and documents showing that the judge in Tommy’s trial had ruled that the evidence led from Coulson was relevant to Tommy’s defence;
• The Scottish Crown quite deliberately withheld that information, and those documents, from the court in Coulson’s trial;
• The Scottish Crown quite deliberately sabotaged its own prosecution of Coulson;
• It did so as part of an increasingly blatant, and increasingly desperate, attempt to cover up its own wrongdoing in the investigation and prosecution of Tommy Sheridan .
Okay, now here’s the chapter and verse.
THE WELL SETTLED LAW OF SCOTLAND ON PERJURY
The law of perjury in Scotland has been clear and well settled for nearly thirty years, ever since its last major clarification was required in 1985.
In a case called Lord Advocate’s Reference (No 1 of 1985) — yes, snappy title, I know — three judges of the High Court, meeting to determine the issue for all future cases, provided, on 26 June 1986, their definitive decision on the issue of what evidence will found a charge of perjury.
They had been asked by the Lord Advocate to settle the following question:
Whether in a trial for perjury the “materiality” of the false evidence to the issue in the earlier trial is…a prerequisite to conviction…
They answered, in the clearest possible terms that the question should
…be answered in the negative.
That is to say, the court made definitively clear, nearly thirty years ago, that the “materiality” of evidence in a case was not to be considered in deciding whether perjury had been committed. Thus, the court said:
…it would be as well if the word “material” ceased to be employed in describing the crime.
Instead, as the court made definitively clear, nearly thirty years ago:
All that is required is that it should be clearly understood that a charge of perjury will not lie unless the evidence alleged to be false was both competent and relevant at the earlier trial…
So let’s consider that, then.
THE COMPETENCE AND RELEVANCE OF ANDY COULSON’S EVIDENCE IN TOMMY SHERIDAN’S TRIAL
Coulson was called as a “hostile” defence witness to substantiate the defence that was very clearly set out in all manner of defence documents and statements, in the cross-examination of Crown witnesses and the examination of defence witnesses, and of course in Tommy’s long closing speech to the jury.
That stated defence — which, incidentally, was crystal clear and and is utterly beyond dispute — was this:
• That Tommy was the victim of a conspiracy against him by some members of the SSP and by NGN Ltd and that he had been unfairly targeted by Lothian and Borders Police, who had it in for him and his family for various reasons;
• That these conspiracies had been pursued by criminal means such as phone hacking, data protection breaches, withholding of evidence, fabrication of evidence, and perjury amounting to a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in order to secure his conviction;
• That if all of the Crown and “hostile” defence witnesses who were involved in these conspiracies told the truth about them, instead of lying, the jury would have an absolute mountain of evidence from which to draw the reasonable inference that the accused had been the victim of these conspiracies, and that the incriminating evidence of these witnesses should not be believed.
Here, for example, are just a few of the things Tommy told the jury about the lengths to which the News of the World would go to try and “do in” someone like him, and in particular the lengths to which Andy Coulson would go. As you’re reading, ask yourself how much more he could have said — how much stronger this line of his defence would have been — if Coulson had told anything even remotely resembling the truth about the thoroughly criminal enterprise of which he’d been Editor when Tommy was “done in”.
There’s this suggestion, and this question:
I think I’m entitled to suggest to you that my phone may have been getting interfered with, and do you know why it’s important?
Then there’s this very clear answer:
What it’s important for is to highlight the lengths that the News of the World are willing to go to try and do someone in. They will break the law, of course, and yet Andy comes along and denies everything. Denies everything. It wisnae him.
And then could this be any clearer?
That’s why I brought Mr Coulson to this witness box. That’s why I’ve raised the whole issue of private investigations, to illustrate to you the power these people have, and how they think they’re above the law.
I’m sure you don’t need me to explain it, or its very obvious relevance to Tommy’s stated defence. The accused is saying he has been done in by the News of the World, edited at the time by the witness Coulson. He’s saying that the witness knows it, and is lying about it. He’s saying that if the witness told the truth about it, the whole house of cards of the prosecution against him would collapse before the jury’s eyes.
But of course the issue of competency and relevancy of evidence in a High Court trial wasn’t — and isn’t — a matter for Tommy Sheridan, or any other accused person, to decide. It’s a matter of law, and that means it’s a matter, solely and exclusively, for the trial judge.
Because in every criminal trial, the person best qualified — by a country mile — to decide what evidence is relevant and competent in pursuit of such principal lines of defence is — of course — the trial judge.
As is so well recognised as to be hardly even worth repeating, the trial judge hears all the evidence in the case, and all of the legal and other submissions, both within and outwith the presence of the jury, and both before and during the trial. How could (s)he not be the best qualified person to decide such matters?
As should also go without saying, trial judges are nonetheless, like all of us, fallible human beings, and can get it wrong. Their decisions on these matters are not carved in stone, and can of course be reviewed.
But, in every case ever, the view taken by the trial judge is always the starting point for any review, it’s always entitled to the greatest respect, and it’s only ever overturned on the clearest possible grounds.
THE VIEW OF THE JUDGES IN HMA V SHERIDAN
In HMA v Sheridan, two judges heard all of the substantive submissions and evidence in the case — Lord Brailsford for most of the preliminary procedure, and then Lord Bracadale for the remaining preliminary procedure and for all of the trial itself.
During preliminary hearings in March 2010, a full six months before the trial even started, Lord Brailsford issued this note on 22 March 2010, as officially recorded in the court minutes:
My attention was also drawn to the fact that two journalists [sic] from Newsgroup Newspapers Limited had been convicted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment in England in respect of unlawful surveillance by gaining entry to person’s [sic] voice boxes on their mobile phone devices. One of the persons so convicted had, I was informed, the petitioner’s name on a document which listed persons he had a journalistic [sic] interest in. My attention was also drawn to the fact that a committee of the House of Commons had investigated Newsgroup Newspapers Limited in relation to the matter of unlawful surveillance by journalists in the employment of Newsgroup Newspapers Limited. That committee had evidently expressed the view that that there was a “culture” within that group which encouraged such unlawful activities. These factors, again in my view, were sufficient to form a basis for seeking recovery of the documents in the specification. In relation to any information pertaining to surveillance, I am also satisfied that the relevant interest test would be made out by the petitioner.
Yes, that’s right. The judge who heard all the submissions and read all the documents said that the recovery of phone hacking evidence and evidence of other “unlawful activities” by the News of the World was clearly relevant to the lines of defence being pursued by Tommy Sheridan, and that Tommy was entitled to recover such evidence and to use it to prepare and present his defence in his trial.
On 30 March 2010, after all of the parties in the procedure — including senior counsel for the Scottish Crown and senior counsel for the News of the World – had confirmed that they accepted the judge’s ruling, the judge ordered recovery of all such evidence.
Then, on 15 November 2010, during the trial itself, and as again recorded in the official court minutes, Lord Bracadale issued this note:
In the course of cross-examination of Mr Bird, the Scottish Editor of the News of the World, Mr Sheridan explored the way in which the News of the World operated in terms of its approach to journalism and, in particular, its use of techniques, including: payments to persons for stories and information; hacking into telephones; use of clandestine listening devices; the use of private investigators; and use of sources within police forces. Having regard to the evidence in the case and the line of defence identified, these are all legitimate and relevant lines of inquiry.
Mr Sheridan has properly explored the extent to which the News of the World may have employed these measures in relation to his own case. He is entitled to explore the extent to which such techniques of journalism are generally part of the armoury of the News of the World. The witness recognised the existence of the term the “black arts” for tapping phones and bugging. Mr Sheridan was able to take from the witness that the Royal editor of the News of the World and a private detective employed by him had been sent to prison in connection with hacking into phones. The witness was quite properly referred to the Report of the House of Commons Select Committee in 2009 in which the Committee was critical of the approach of the News of the World to phone hacking.
Yes, you read that right again. The judge said in terms that these lines of evidence — exactly the lines of evidence on which Tommy tried, and failed, to get the truth out of Coulson — were “legitimate and relevant” lines for the defence to pursue in its leading of evidence from witnesses.
The trial judge himself — the person universally acknowledged always in the legal process as being the best person to decide such matters — ruled, in terms, that such questioning was both competent and relevant in pursuit of Tommy’s defence.
Could there be any stronger or more powerful answer to any question of the relevance and competence of Coulson’s evidence in Tommy’s trial?
WHAT THE SCOTTISH CROWN KNEW, AND WHEN THEY KNEW IT
Being deeply suspicious that the Crown was already trying to sabotage itself in the Coulson prosecution for all the reasons set out in the posts on this blog — and for many more reasons that I can’t tell you about yet, but will some day — I wrote to the First Minister on 27 October 2014.
I also sent a copy to the Lord Advocate.
For good measure, I also posted the letter publicly on this blog, embedded in the Gimme Some Truth… post opposite, where you can still find it — or, for ease of reference, you can just click on the link here.
(For new visitors who haven’t read this document before, I strongly suggest that you give the full thing a try after you’re done reading this post. I know it’s long and involved but anyone who reads it to the end will know much more about why the Scottish Crown has acted as it has in Coulson’s trial, and why it’s just part of a much bigger cover-up.)
On page 7 of that letter, at paragraph 33, you’ll see set out in full the quote above from Lord Brailsford.
On page 8 of that letter, at paragraph 39, you’ll see set out in full the quote above from Lord Bracadale.
By email of 27 October 2014 at 15:06, I also wrote to the First Minister as follows:
I’m attaching herewith a copy of the letter I’m sending you tonight by first class recorded delivery post regarding my client Tommy Sheridan and your evidence to the Leveson Inquiry on 13 June 2012.
I’d be grateful if you would acknowledge receipt, and I look forward thereafter to receiving your substantive reply to the issues raised in due course.
By email of 27 October 2014 at 15:17, I received the following reply from Allen Skinner, Office of the First Minister, with my own email undernoted beneath:
The First Minister’s office acknowledges receipt of the undernoted.
By email of 27 October 2014 at 15:14, I also sent a full copy of the letter to the Lord Advocate at his Private Office, advising as follows:
I’m…attaching herewith a copy of my letter to the First Minister regarding my client Tommy Sheridan, which I’ve emailed and posted today. I’d be grateful if you would pass this to the Lord Advocate for his information.
By email of 28 October 2014 at 18:14, I received the following reply from Joanne Foley, Depute Private Secretary to the Lord Advocate:
I refer to your email and correspondence you have sent to the First Minister and copied to the Lord Advocate, I confirm receipt of your letter.
Accordingly, both the Scottish Crown and the Scottish Government were in receipt — at the highest level — of this vital information about the relevance and competence of Andy Coulson’s evidence at my client’s trial from 28 October 2014 at the very latest.
By letter of 1 May 2015, the Scottish Government finally responded to my letter to the First Minister of 27 October 2014, by way of this from Kevin Philpott of its Justice Directorate, Criminal Justice Division:
…you will probably be aware that section 48(5) of the Scotland Act states “Any decision of the Lord Advocate in his capacity as head of the systems of criminal prosecution and investigation of deaths in Scotland shall continue to be taken by him independently of any other person.” The Scottish Ministers accordingly do not have any function of oversight of the Crown Office’s activities in investigating crime.
So that’s that then. The Scottish Crown is simply a law unto itself, and even the Scottish Government itself has no “function of oversight” of it whatsoever.
I’ve yet to hear anything in response from the Lord Advocate.
THE TRIAL OF ANDY COULSON
After four years of investigation and preparation, and the spending of huge amounts of public money in the process, the Scottish Crown finally brought Andy Coulson to trial last month.
The Crown led a handful of witnesses over the course of around a week.
It did not lead Glenn Mulcaire.
It did not lead Tommy Sheridan.
Either of those witnesses could have told the jury, and the court, in spades, precisely why Coulson’s evidence about the News of the World’s astonishing crimes against Tommy Sheridan and thousands of others had been relevant to Tommy Sheridan’s defence at his trial in 2010.
Mulcaire could have told them because he was Coulson’s go-to guy, and helped to carry out the crimes against Tommy and countless other crimes.
Tommy could have told them because he was a victim of those crimes — along with many others connected to him, both friends and enemies alike.
And Tommy could also have told them of course because Coulson’s lies about those crimes helped send Tommy to jail in one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in Scottish history.
It’s fair to say, then, that those of us who had thought for years that the case against Coulson was being deliberately sabotaged were not exactly reassured by the way in which the Crown conducted its case, even prior to the closing of that case last week.
Then, as we knew it would — and as the Crown of course knew it would — Coulson’s defence began its submission of “no case to answer” on Wednesday 27 May 2015.
By email of 27 May 2015 at 13:59, I wrote as follows to the Senior Procurator Fiscal Depute assigned full-time to the Coulson prosecution and — supposedly — to all of the Rubicon prosecutions:
Phone hacking and the many other “thoroughly criminal” activities of the News of the World (and lied about by Mr Coulson) were at the heart of my client’s defence as I have made clear to you many times.
I’m attaching — again — extracts from written decisions by Lords Brailsford and Bracadale which make this abundantly clear — Lord Brailsford’s in March 2010, six months before the trial even started and Lord Bracadale’s when my client was cross-examining [a News of the World Crown witness] on exactly the same principal line of defence on which he later tried to get the truth out of Coulson.
Are these before the court? If not, why not?
With that email I attached this extract from Lord Bracadale’s decision, helpfully underlined as you’ll see [I'd redacted Bob Bird's name for reasons which, as of last night, no longer apply, and there'll be a lot more about that in future posts] and this extract from Lord Brailsford’s earlier decision, also helpfully — if hastily — underlined to put the issue beyond any doubt.
By email of 27 May 2015, at 16:14:29, I received the following response (or, rather, non-response):
The debate is ongoing and the Crown continue to address the court.
The submissions being made by the defence are opposed by the Crown.
The documents were never shown to the court.
The defence’s submission of no case to answer was upheld.
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
So this is where we are now:
The Lord Advocate of Scotland was told — a full six months and more before Andy Coulson’s trial was deliberately allowed to collapse today — that the evidence led from Andy Coulson had been judged to be both relevant and competent in the trial of Tommy Sheridan by the judge hearing all of the evidence in those proceedings.
That information, and those documents, constituted the most powerful answer possible to the contention of Coulson’s defence that his evidence at Tommy Sheridan’s trial was irrelevant and could not found a charge of perjury.
The Lord Advocate of Scotland withheld that information, and those documents, from the court in Andy Coulson’s trial.
The Senior Procurator Fiscal Depute coordinating the prosecution on behalf of the Lord Advocate was specifically reminded once again on 27 May 2015 of that information, and of those documents, and extracts from the documents were once again sent directly to him.
That information, and those documents, continued to be withheld from the court.
The lying criminal Andy Coulson was allowed to walk free.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
Here’s what I think must happen now.
I hope it’s what you think too.
And I hope you’ll let your view be known, as loudly and as widely as you can.
THERE HAS TO BE A FULL PUBLIC INQUIRY INTO THE CESSPIT OF THE CROWN’S HANDLING OF THIS WHOLE MATTER, INCLUDING, AS ANNOUNCED LAST NIGHT, THE ASTONISHING DECISION NOT TO PROCEED WITH PROSECUTIONS OF BOB BIRD AND DOUGLAS WIGHT.
AND THAT PUBLIC INQUIRY HAS TO BE RIGHT NOW.
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Not only is it a sick system where by a Judge deliberate that a "Jury sworn in and hearing evidence on the case". The Judge Alone then determines to discontinue the case as to the brevity of what a jury had heard so far of the case?
How did the Judge reach his decision, as both persons had received Prison sentences on Evidence by Illegal methods, "Phone Hacking"?
(1) If phone Hacking evidence and the source used to gain evidence of a person's guilt and it was obtained illegally, how can the Crown rely on that / it's Evidence and the sentence served is proved safe?
(2) If the person who supplied that evidence,(illegally) used the above methods as evidence to convict a person, who was then convicted of a "Conspiracy to Hack Phones" illegal, Yes, Guilty Ma Lord!
(3) Both parties should now sue the Crown for sentencing them to prison on illegally obtained evidence?
How long is a piece of string!
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Quite how a Judge can determine no evidence on a case, when the Former Editor of the NotW, claims not to know a convicted phone hacker who had the name Greg in his note book(editor for Rupert Murdoch) and Mr .Sheridens Voda no, payment made from Clive Goodman to Glen £92,000, why was Glen not called to give evidence eh Lord Burns? cough, cough, where's the water(Gin?)
How dare you i'll have you up for contempt of court!?
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