Public Law

In May Paul blogged about the detention of former No. 10 Communications Director Andy Coulson on suspicion of committing perjury during the course of the 2010 High Court trial of Tommy Sheridan.

Last week former editor at the News of the World Scotland, Bob Bird, was detained as part of Strathclyde Police’s Operation Rubicon on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice in connection with Mr Sheridan’s defamation action against News of the World in 2006. He was held for four hours before being released.

This is the latest – albeit most high profile example – of a line of cases which shows a greater willingness on the part of the Crown to investigate and prosecute individuals with attempting to pervert the course of justice in recent years. Offending conduct has included:-

  • Going into hiding to avoid receiving a witness citation
  • Giving a false name to the police when stopped in relation to a road traffic offence.
  • Influencing a witness not to give information to a police investigation.
  • Changing the tyres of a vehicle changed knowing the vehicle had been used during the commission of murder.
  • Influencing a witness to give false information at trial.

We’re often asked to provide advice and support to individuals and organisations preparing for criminal trials. Of course we recommend avoiding all of the above behaviour! But sometimes the judgment on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable conduct in preparing a case for trial is not so clear cut. What if an employee comes forward with information which may not assist your defence? Are you obliged to approach the Crown with that information? If in doubt, better to take legal advice before you become the latest to join the list above!

Ramsay Hall

Associate at Brodies LLP
Ramsay is a solicitor in the firm’s Government, Regulation and Competition team. He has advocacy experience in both civil and criminal litigation and acts for a wide range of public and private sector clients in the Court of Session and the Sheriff Courts. Ramsay also provides public law advice on freedom of information, human rights, statutory interpretation and the powers of the Scottish Parliament.