NoW hacking row: Scottish police to probe claims

Tommy Sheridan, Andy Coulson and Bob Bird Andy Coulson (centre) and Bob Bird (right) gave evidence at Tommy Sheridan's trial

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Prosecutors have asked Strathclyde Police to examine specific claims of phone hacking in Scotland by the News of the World newspaper.

The Crown Office has also asked the force to "assess specific claims" of breaches of data protection.

It comes after a dossier was handed to police on Thursday containing a list of people in Scotland who allegedly had their phones hacked by the newspaper.

Prosecutors will consider whether the inquiry findings merit further action.

This is the second move in 24 hours by the Crown Office to investigate allegations against the News of the World.

Defamation case

It comes amid a developing maelstrom at UK level which has resulted in the News of the World publisher, News International, deciding to close the paper after this Sunday's edition.

As the fallout from the scandal gathered pace, Scottish prosecutors announced on Thursday that they had asked Strathclyde Police to look at witness statements given at the Tommy Sheridan perjury trial.

Start Quote

A judge-led public inquiry into the appalling hacking activity at News of the World...is clearly the right and proper course of action”

End Quote Alex Salmond MSP First Minister

In December last year, Sheridan was convicted of lying at his successful defamation case against the newspaper in 2006.

The News of the World claimed he was an adulterer who had visited a sex club.

When Sheridan defended himself during the trial, he questioned three senior figures from the newspaper - former UK editor and then Number 10 communications director Andy Coulson, Scottish editor Bob Bird and news editor Douglas Wight.

Sheridan claimed that his phone had been hacked by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed, along with the newspaper's former royal editor Clive Goodman in 2007, for intercepting voice messages for members of the royal household.

While being questioned by Sheridan, Mr Coulson, Mr Bird and Mr Wight all denied any knowledge of wrongdoing at the newspaper.

Mr Coulson and Clive Goodman were arrested on Friday by the Metropolitan Police who are investigating allegations of phone hacking and corruption.

Two inquiries

Amid fast-moving events, Prime Minister David Cameron has also announced two inquiries into the hacking scandal.

On Thursday, hours after the Crown Office asked police to look at evidence given during the Sheridan perjury trial, the former MSP's lawyer, Aamer Anwar, and Labour MP Tom Watson, called for a full investigation into the News of the World's activities in Scotland and of the evidence given during the trial.

Both men later handed in a dossier to Strathclyde Police which they allege contains details of illegal practices by the newspaper.

Tom Watson and Aamer Anwar Tom Watson and Aamer Anwar handed a dossier over to Strathclyde Police

The Crown Office has now asked the force to examine those allegations and report its findings.

A Crown Office statement said: "In light of further emerging developments regarding the News of the World, the Crown has asked Strathclyde Police to consider and assess specific claims of phone hacking and breaches of data protection in Scotland.

"Strathclyde Police will review available information and will liaise with the Metropolitan Police in relation to any Scottish dimension to their current investigations and will thereafter report their findings to the area procurator fiscal at Glasgow."

Meanwhile, First Minister Alex Salmond said "a judge-led public inquiry into the appalling hacking activity at News of the World, and breaches of data protection laws across the newspaper industry, is clearly the right and proper course of action".

Mr Salmond added: "In terms of the additional inquiry announced by the prime minister into the broader conduct of the press, if he is discussing its scope and remit with opposition leaders at Westminster, he must also consult with the parliaments and assemblies of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, given the diversity of the media across the different nations of the UK."

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