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Dec 23, 2010

Tommy Sheridan Guilty of Perjury

Tommy Sheridan was today found Guilty of Perjury after a lengthy trial which saw him make an emotional plea to the Jury "for his life".   The Jury of fourteen - two men and twelve women returned the verdict today after failing to reach a verdict in 90 mins of deliberations yesterday.

Sheridan in his 5 hour closing speech had been emotional and close to tears as he pleaded with the Jury not to find him guilty and see him parted form his wife and young child over Christmas.

In his summing up the Judge Lord Bracadale warned the Jury that they should pay no attention to the consequences of their verdict because that was a matter for him. He directed them to simply pay attention to whether they were satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Sheridan had committed perjury.

The full trial started on 4 October 2010 with a jury of 13 women and 2 men, mostly younger women with one ethnic minority juror. However, on 15 December the judge excused one of the women jurors from serving further, the trial continued with 14 jurors. In Scotland a trial with 15 jurors requires a majority of 8 for a conviction. the trial is able to continue if there are fewer jurors but the requirement that 8 jurors must still vote for conviction remains even when there are fewer jurors.

Sheridan has initially hired Donald Findlay QC to defend him, but he later chose Margaret Scott QC, who had represented Abdelbaset al-Megrahi in the Lockerbie bombing trial. On 11 October Sheridan dismissed Margaret Scott QC and began to conduct his own defence. He retained his solicitor Aamer Anwar.

The prosecution was led by Alex Prentice and as the trail progressed on 25 November and again on 2 and 20 December the prosecution removed a number of items from the indictment.
A considerable part of the prosecution case concerned a the crucial SSP executive meeting of 9 November 2004, when Sheridan resigned as convenor.
16 witnesses present at the meeting claimed that Sheridan admitted to visiting Cupids sex club in Manchester at the meeting.  Barbara Scott, the minute secretary, that she made notes at the meeting and produced minutes which supported this claim.

The crown evidence also included a video-tape which was claimed to have been secretly filmed by a friend of Sheridans a few days after this meeting. It purported to show Sheridan making a "foul-mouthed tirade" containing statements inconsistent with his evidence in the civil trial.
Sheridan claimed in the trial that the voice on the tape was not his and suggested that it might have been a scripted piece using an actor or a mimic. Sheridan had in previous TV interviews appeared to concede that the voice might be his but suggested that the tape had possibly been "spliced" together. Bob Bird, Scottish editor of the News of the World, gave evidence about how the paper acquired the tape.

Katrine Trolle, a Danish woman and former SSP candidate in Aberdeen North in the Scottish Parliament election, 2003, claimed that she had had an affair with Sheridan and that she had visited Cupids sex club with him and others on 27th September 2002. This evidence was supported in testimony by Ruth Adamson, a former housemate of Trolle, and her ex-boyfriend Ralph Barnett, who claimed that Sheridan did spend the night with Trolle.

Gary Clark, a former professional footballer and childhood friend of Sheridan, claimed in his evidence to have visited a club in Manchester with Sheridan and the others.

Anvar Khan, a News of the World journalist, claimed that she had visited Cupids sex club as part of a group with Sheridan and that she had an affair with him. This was supported by Elizabeth Quinn, a former neighbour of Khan, who claimed to have seen Khan and Sheridan appear from the direction of a bedroom.

A former worker in Cupids. and another witness, claimed to have seen Sheridan in Cupids. A number of SSP activists also claimed that Sheridan had made admissions to them about his personal life inconsistent with his evidence in the civil trial.

The defence case began on 3 December.  Neither Sheridan or his wife took the stand as witnesses themselves. Many of the witnesses called by Sheridan including Hugh Kerr aand Rosemary Byrne were members of Solidarity, his own party.

Sheridan also called Andy Coulson, Downing Street director of communications and former News of the World editor. In his examination of Coulson Sheridan attempted to paint a picture of a conspiracy by the News of the World to "do him in" because he was a leading socialist. Sheridan attempted to link his own case the investigations in England of illegal phone tapping by an investigator working for News of the World.
Coulson denied any personal knowledge of illegal activity at the News of the World.

Four witnesses who were present at the crucial SSP executive meeting of 9 November 2004, John Penman, Rosemary Byrne, Patricia Smith and Graeme McIver supported Sheridan's claim that he did not admit to visiting a sex club at the meeting.

In regard to the video tape Sheridan produced witnesses at trial who knew him and who claimed that it was not his voice partly because of the swearing which they said was not Sheridan's normal mode of speech. On eof his witnesses claimed that the voice on the tape made him sound like Cartman the South Park character.

The defence case completed on 17th December and the prosecution and defence began their summations.

For the prosecution Alex Prentice pointed to the wide range of witnesses who had testified to matters that supported the perjury charges and he poured scorn on the notion that there had been some sort of conmspiracy involving SSP members and the News of the World.

In his speech to the Jury Sheridan claimed that the News of the World was at the centre of the case and he also clamed that he had been the subject of a vendetta campaign by Lothian and Borders Police force.

At the close of his final defence speech, Sheridan said he was not afraid of the News of the World newspaper but he then addressed the jury saying;

“I’m frightened of you … because you can do something that the News of the World will never be able to do.You could separate me from my wife, you could make me break my promise to my daughter that I’d spend Christmas with her. Given what you’ve heard I ask you to believe you’ve heard more than enough reasonable doubt to convince you that I’m innocent of the charges that remain.”

There was a round of aplause from Sheridan's supporters in the public gallery as he ended his speech.

Lord Bracadale in his charge to the jury told them to put aside such emotion, telling them  "not to be swayed by the consequences of conviction". He told them to focus on the evidence that they had heard during the trial and not to to be influenced by views of the sexual mores or politics that had emerged during the case.

Tommy Sheridan has been a prominent Scottish socialist politician. He is the founder and currently one of two co-convenors of the left-wing Scottish political party Solidarity.

Sheridan has a degree in Economics from University of Stirling and later obtained a MSc in Social Research at the University of Strathclyde in 2008. He is currently studying law at Strathclyde Law School.

Sheridan was active in the Militant tendency an entryist organisation in the Labour Party. He was a prominent campaigner against the poll tax in Scotland, and was jailed for six months for peacefully attending a warrant sale after Glasgow Sheriff Court had served a court order on him banning his presence.

He became unpopular with some on the left though when he denounced those who fought the police in the large-scale anti poll tax riot in London on 31 March 1990 and when he publicly threatened to "name names". Some called him "Shop 'em Sheridan" as a result of this. Over 100 individuals were jailed.

Sheridan has himself twice been jailed in connection with the peaceful campaign against the nuclear fleet at Faslane Naval Base.

In 2006 Sheridan won an action for defamation against the News of the World and was awarded £200,000 damages. The judge in the case made remarks that indicated he felt that perjury had been committed. The following year Sheridan was charged with perjury and subsequently six of his relations and colleagues were also charged.

Sheridan has also culitivated a media career. He had a chat show on Talk 107, appeared at a show at the Edinburgh Fringe. Most famously he appeared on Celebrity Big Brother 2009 for a reported fee of £100,000. He defended this by saying that he needed the money and that it was "..an honest offer of employment. I'm not crossing a picket line. I'm not hurting anyone."

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