After hearing Tommy Sheridan's detailed plea in mitigation this morning in Court Four in the High Court in Glasgow, Lord Bracadale sentenced the former MSP to three years in prison. To my mind, any prison sentence was going to be harsh, but this result is in the middle range of what was anticipated. Here was the judge's full sentencing statement:
"On any view you were a highly effective and hard working politician. You supported individuals in the community; both in the parliament and in the street, you were able to use your undoubted powers of oratory to press home your cause; you led the Scottish Socialist Party to considerable electoral success; and your contributions to the anti-poll tax campaign and the abolition of warrant sales will become part of the fabric of Scottish social and political history.
By pursuing, and persisting in the pursuit of, a defamation action against the proprietors of the News of the World you brought the walls of the temple crashing down not only on your own head but also on the heads of your family and your political friends and foes alike.
You were repeatedly warned by the comrades that it would come to this.
I have considered the various cases to which you have referred me. These are helpful, though in considering them it must be borne in mind that each case turns on its own facts.
I also note the case of Singh which was a perjury case considered by the Court of Criminal Appeal in Scotland in 2005. In it the Court made the following statement:
“Perjury must always be seen as a serious crime, since it strikes at the fundamental basis of our system of justice and at the integrity and accuracy of the decisions reached in courts. It follows that when perjury is established, it must be dealt with seriously for the benefit of the courts and the public generally. Everyone should be made fully aware that, when an oath is taken in a court of law to tell the truth, that is what must be done.” (Singh v HM Advocate 2005 SCCR 604)
In your case you embarked on an action in the Court of Session knowing that for it to be successful you would require to tell lies under affirmation. You went on to commit perjury in the course of successfully pursuing that action, as a result of which you were awarded a very large sum of damages. In these circumstances the only appropriate sentence, as you yourself recognise, is one of imprisonment.
I leave out of account your previous convictions which I do not regard as relevant.
I take into account the terms of the social enquiry report; everything that you have said today; and the references which you have produced. I take account of the significant reduction in the scope of the charge against you. In all the circumstances I impose a sentence of three years imprisonment."