by RAY FLEMING
WHEN The Guardian newspaper decides to put its name to serious allegations against an individual or an organisation it is reasonable to assume that there is fire as well as smoke. In the “sword of truth” libel case of Jonathan Aitken MP, who sued the Guardian in 1995 for accusing him of illegal arms trading, the paper went to great lengths to find the tiny piece of evidence that would prove their accusations to be true; Mr Aitken ended up in jail for perjury, with his political career broken.

Yesterday's allegations by the Guardian that the News of the World employed private investigators to gain unlawful access to confidential documents of public figures go very much wider than the Aitken case and may raise questions about the way in which the Metropolitan Police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Press Complaints Commission have acted. It will take time for the many strands of the Guardian's investigation to be pulled together but immediately the role of Andy Coulson, communications chief for David Cameron, is under the spotlight. Mr Coulson was deputy editor and editor of the News of the World at part of the time that the alleged unlawful acts were taking place but has said he knew nothing about them. David Cameron has already expressed his confidence in Mr Coulson. However, the doubts expressed earlier about the suitability of an editor of the News of the World as a senior advisor to the leader of the opposition are certain to resurface.

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