The trial of Tommy Sheridan and his wife Gail on charges of perjury is now reaching the final stages as Alex Prentice today summed up the prosecution case for the jury. Over the course of this lengthy trial the Prosecution has brought forward a range of witnesses who have testified to the matters set out on the indictment.
One of the features of the case has been that the prosecution have, with the agreement of the court, amended and reduced the indictment from the one that Sheridan and his wife first faced. In a dramatic twist in the case on Friday the prosecution dropped all the remaining charges against Gail Sheridan.
The prosecution was careful to insist that the charges had been dropped due to her "personal circumstances" and despite there being a "sufficiency of evidence" against her - a position that was not disputed by her counsel.
While the trial has been reported widely in the media in the UK the media has tended, as it often does, to focus merely on headline issues and often at a fairly shallow level. However those interested in the full details of the workings of a major trial such as this in a Scottish court have had the benefit of a blog which has published full details of each day of the trial in detail. The blogger concerned Mr James Doleman has done a wonderful job in presenting a balanced and detailed report of the proceedings.
Mr Dolemans blog has been followed avidly by a large group of commenters ( including myself) who have , within the limits of contempt of court, debated and teased apart the evidence as it has emerged. Many of the commenters have some involvement in socialist politics and supporters and detractors of Sheridan have been there in equal measure engaging in what for the most part has been fairly rugged but generally civilised debate.
While there have been many complexities in the case at its core is a simple allegation - that Tommy Sheridan had visited a Swingers club and had certain extra marital liaisons. That the newspaper the News of the World found out about this and published certain stories. That Sheridan confessed to a small group within his party at a very stormy meeting but said that was going to sue the paper for defamation as he was convinced that they could not prove the truth of the story. That this split his party with many of the leading members being adamant that the defamation action would bring nothing but destruction on Sheridan and his party.
Sheridan did sue the paper and leading his own case in court he came away with a victory that astounded many. He was awarded £200k by the jury but the judge in the case reported that he had major concerns about perjury having been committed. A lengthy police investigation ensued and Sheridan, and his wife were then charged with perjury. The perjury allegations essentially centre around the fact that Sheridan is alleged to have lied about these events during the defamation case.
Neither Sheridan or his wife took the stand in the perjury trial, something which was their right of course in law but which perhaps still leaves certain matters unanswered - such as why he had the partial address , name and telephone of the swingers club in his diary.
Sheridan's overall version of events will be heard tomorrow when he sums up the defence case for the jury. So far his defence has appeared to be based on a similar approach to the one he used in the defamation case which was to claim that the whole affair involves a conspiracy by a group within his party to oust him and a conspiracy by Rupert Murdoch and his media empire to destroy Sheridan because he is supposedly a leading socialist. Essentially Sheridan appears to argue that the News of the World was engaging in conspiratorial class warfare.
One fascinating aspect of the case has been the production of a "video confession" allegedly recorded by an associate of Sheridan. Unfortunately Sheridan can't be seen clearly on the tape and Sheridan has tried to claim variously that the tape is a "concoction" or that an actor or mimic was used to impersonate him.
The jury will, within the next few days, be able to deliver their own verdict on this whole affair. Should they find Sheridan Not Guilty then the implication will of course be that a large number of prosecution witnesses came into court and perjured themselves in a perjury trial. What will follow from that is anyone's guess at this stage. If he is found guilty then his own supporters and Sheridan himself are unlikely to let the matter rest there and it is hard to imagine that having let matters develop this far that Sheridan would not then appeal. There is a third option in Scottish law - Not Proven and some have speculated that this trial may be headed in that less than conclusive direction.
It seems certain though that one way or another we have not heard the last of Tommy Sheridan in Scotland's courts.
And of course neither is that the last of Tommy Sheridan on this blog, because I will, of course, post further after the both the prosecution and defence have completed their summing up and give my own take on events once the verdict is in.