2 August 2011

A numpty's guide to appealling Tommy Sheridan's conviction...

Mater Peat Worrier is thoroughly sick of Tommy Sheridan. For her, the Satsuma Socialist is guilty as sin, indictment proved, conviction well earned and eminently deserved. The reappearance of Sheridan's brazen phizog on the telly over the hacking scandal, and Andy Coulson's arrest in particular, prompted groans and rolled eyes. Without a leg to stand on he might be, but "the Black Knight always triumphs!" 

For those who feel similarly, I apologise for what follows. However, with all of the rumour and conjecture surrounding the case, I thought it would be helpful to compose a clear exposition of just how the High Court of Justiciary deal with appeals against conviction, raised on the basis of new evidence becoming available after the jury's final say.  A certain degree of circumspection is indicated here. We know that the Crown Office has instructed Strathclyde Police to investigate telephone hacking in Scotland, with an especial focus on "allegations that witnesses gave perjured evidence in the trial of Tommy Sheridan".  That investigation may raise criminal prosecutions I have no intention of prejudicing.

Using the resource of the contemporaneous Sheridan Trial blog, Scots Law Thoughts has applied his forensic mind to the available testimony of some of these witnesses - specifically those News of the World figures, including Andy Coulson - exploring potential grounds on which perjury charges might be brought against them, and the difficulties which might assail proving such charges in court. 

Informed by the driving interests of the London media, much of the discussion has focussed on the figure of Andy Coulson. In various quarters, it has been suggested that if the Prime Minister's former communications director did commit perjury in H.M. Advocate v. Sheridan, Tommy's conviction is surely rendered questionable, undermined, unsafe. Less discussed, there is also the issue of missing emails which were not produced at the time of Sheridan's trial, but which have now been recovered. We do not know what these communications may contain. Speaking to the BBC, Labour MP Tom Watson argued...

“The jury was not in full possession of the facts. I think Tommy Sheridan was wronged. Had they been in possession of the email it might have materially affected the outcome of the trial.”

A few weeks back, I composed a brief post with very limited aims, entitled "Sheridan wasn't convicted on the evidence of Andy Coulson". My intention was to make two basic points. Firstly, Coulson was a witness called by the defence and his evidence did not constitute any part of the Crown case. He was not, as some people were suggesting, an essential witness against Sheridan, though he was certainly a hostile figure called at Tommy's own instance, with little prospect of adding exculpatory evidence to the charges he faced. Re-examining the final indictment, I suggested, also serves to put Coulson's comments from the witness box in some sort of perspective.

In that piece, I was careful not to be too sweeping, nor to argue blankly that whether or not Coulson perjured himself in the Sheridan trial is of no consequence for any appeal against Sheridan's conviction. Although I unaccountably missed it at the time, and it was not widely publicised, in early June, Lord Wheatley refused Sheridan's first attempt at an appeal against conviction and sentence in the first "sift", a finding his legal representatives are presently inviting further judges of the High Court to review.  It remains to be seen if these judges will see arguability where Wheatley saw none. However, on the BBC's Politics Show Scotland, Scots criminal advocate Paul McBride QC, dispensed with such circumspection, confidently arguing that...

"Tommy Sheridan was convicted of perjury by telling a civil jury that he hadn't been to a swingers club and that he hadn't told members of his own party about it.  The evidence at the trial was from members of his own party that he had been to a swingers club and the jury accepted that evidence and he was convicted of perjury.  The News of the World had no input whatsoever in relation to that perjury conviction, so the evidence of any journalist of the News of the World, even if it was perjured evidence, would not affect the conviction of Tommy Sheridan at all."

So is Mr McBride correct? Is it as clear-cut as all that? Alternatively, is there any basis to conclude that the speculators crying that Coulson's arrest (remember, he hasn't been charged with anything, and may not be subject to any criminal proceedings) must cause the High Court of Justiciary to turn the key in the lock, and throw open Sheridan's cell door? What to make of Tom Watson's suggestion that the failure to produce these emails - whose contents, remember, we cannot assess - of itself constitutes a miscarriage of justice? How can we expect the Court of Criminal Appeal to approach these issues? Our starting point for criminal appeals is part VIII of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995.  The Act provides that the High Court can review convictions on the basis that they are a miscarriage of justice.

"... which may include such a miscarriage based on— (a)subject to subsections (3A) to (3D) below, the existence and significance of evidence which was not heard at the original proceedings ..." [s106(3)(a)].

As this suggests, the 1995 Act imposes some limits on the new evidence which can found an appeal. The evidence must not have been heard at the original proceedings and there must be a "reasonable explanation" for why new evidence was not heard at the time [s106(3A)]. Where the evidence is from a person who gave evidence at the original proceedings, and differs from or is additional to the evidence adduced there, it may not furnish a basis for an appeal unless "there is a reasonable explanation as to why the evidence now sought to be adduced was not given by that person at those proceedings, which explanation is itself supported by independent evidence" [s106(3C)(b)]. 

"Independent evidence" includes evidence not lead at the original proceedings; from a source independent of the person producing the new, unheard evidence; which the court accepts as both reliable and credible [s106(3D)].  On any reading, however, the statute is silent on the how an appeal based on new evidence is to be determined. Outstanding, therefore, is the question: what constitutes a miscarriage of justice? To answer this question, we have to turn from statute to the criminal jurisprudence of the High Court. Our starting point is the dicta of Lord Justice-General Emslie in Cameron v. H.M. Advocate.  Emslie held that:

"... if the court is to find that a miscarriage of justice had occurred in an appeal such as this, it must be satisfied that the additional evidence is at least capable of being described as important and reliable evidence which would have been bound, or at least likely, to have had a material bearing upon, or a material part to play in, the jury's determination of a critical issue at the trial. If the court is so satisfied, it will be open to it to hold that a conviction returned in ignorance of the existence of that evidence represents a miscarriage of justice...

Drawing on this approach to new evidence appeals, in Al-Megrahi v. H.M. Advocate, Lord Justice-General Cullen helpfully summarised Justiciary's approach thus.

(1) The court may allow an appeal against conviction on any ground only if it is satisfied that there has been a miscarriage of justice.

(2) In an appeal based on the existence and significance of additional evidence not heard at the trial, the court will quash the conviction if it is satisfied that the original jury, if it had heard the new evidence, would have been bound to acquit.

(3) Where the court cannot be satisfied that the jury would have been bound to acquit, it may nevertheless be satisfied that a miscarriage of justice has occurred.

(4) Since setting aside the verdict of a jury is no light matter, before the court can hold that there has been a miscarriage of justice it will require to be satisfied that the additional evidence is not merely relevant but also of such significance that it will be reasonable to conclude that the verdict of the jury, reached in ignorance of its existence, must be regarded as a miscarriage of justice.

(5) The decision on the issue of the significance of the additional evidence is for the appeal court, which will require to be satisfied that it is important and of such a kind and quality that it was likely that a reasonable jury properly directed would have found it of material assistance in its consideration of a critical issue at the trial.

(6) The appeal court will therefore require to be persuaded that the additional evidence is (a) capable of being regarded as credible and reliable by a reasonable jury, and (b) likely to have had a material bearing on, or a material part to play in, the determination by such a jury of a critical issue at the trial.

The first thing to observe about this approach to criminal appeals is its flexibility and lack of formalism.  In the recently UK Supreme Court case of Nat Fraser v. HM Advocate, Lord Hope described this approach as a "quite stringent".  For example, any new evidence discovered may be credible and reliable, but may not have a material bearing on a "critical issue" at the trial. Alternatively, evidence may speak to a critical issue, but may not come from a credible or reliable source, thus nobbling any appeal against conviction predicated on it.  Any Sheridan appeal founded on new evidence, whether emails or the allegedly perjured testimony of Andy Coulson on his knowledge of unlawful practices at the News of the World, fits into the legal framework of Cameron and subsequent cases.

To my eye, the vital (and challenging) question for Sheridan and his representatives to answer is how evidence of Coulson's perjury, or new emails featuring the Satsuma Cicero have a material bearing on critical issues at his trial? In coming to a view of what is critical, look back at the final indictment. In what respect is the general hacking practices of the News of the World, and their editor's knowledge of the same, critical for the determination of whether Tommy went to swingers club in Manchester, told his SSP colleagues about it, and subsequently lied in court about both attending Cupids and telling others about it? Of the emails, it is impossible at this stage to take a firm view. Obviously, if this body of communications contains correspondence asking "how is the concocted footage of Sheridan's confession coming?" - that could be said materially to relate a critical issue at the trial - the veracity of the "McNeilage tape", which was played through to the jury on a number of occasions.

However, we can be absolutely clear that Tom Watson MP is quite wrong in law to suggest that the absence of these emails by itself makes the case's outcome fundamentally questionable. Watson may hold that view, but the High Court of Justiciary certainly won't sympathise. Essential if these documents are to secure the upturning of the jury's verdict is that their contents are "likely to have had a material bearing on, or a material part to play in, the determination by such a jury of a critical issue at the trial" and thus they are "not merely relevant but also of such significance that it will be reasonable to conclude that the verdict of the jury, reached in ignorance of its existence, must be regarded as a miscarriage of justice". The same goes for any untruths in Coulson's evidence in the High Court.

In the absence of emails drafted in the hypothetical, fundamentally incriminating terms I describe, I struggle to see that the High Court will be moved to overturn the jury's decision.  Similarly, if Coulson's alleged perjury is limited to the general unlawful practices of employees at the News of the World, and his knowledge of them, how does that impact on the critical issues of the Sheridan trial, concerning swingers clubs, his confessions to his colleagues and his lies about both in Court?

These are the questions which Sheridan's representatives will have to work up persuasive answers to, if their client is to see his conviction quashed on grounds of new evidence. As the Lord Justice General noted, setting aside the verdict of a jury is no light matter. And on these tests, convincing the High Court to overturn Sheridan's conviction may be a very tall order indeed, despite alleged perjury, despite absent emails, whatever Tom Watson believes.

31 comments :

  1. Even if the NotW's and Coulson's impact on Sheridan's trial is not material - and I had forgotten Coulson's evidence wasn't used by the prosecution - if Sheridan can demonstrate that NotW "hacked" his phone messages, he could take civil action and have News International settle out of court for significant damages...

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  2. HighlandLawyer2 August 2011 14:49

    Very simple question here: if a witness in court lies, and the judge/jury rejects that witnesses evidence on the basis that they think the witness evidence is unreliable, how does it affect the outcome of the case if it is subsequently proven that the witness lied?

    Perjury is the offence of lying on oath, not of successfully deceiving the court.

    Ergo, if Mr Coulson lied on oath (whichever side called him as a witness) he would be liable to prosecution for perjury. If investigations into Mr Coulson's alleged conduct brings up new evidence unavailable to Mr Sheridan previously, that allows Mr Sheridan to appeal on the grounds of new evidence. Otherwise, only if Mr Coulson's testimony was both false and substantially affected the outcome of Mr Sheridan's case would that show grounds for appeal/retrial. (It would also lead one to question the sagacity of Mr Sheridan and/or his legal advisor in choosing the call Mr Coulson as a witness in the first place)

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  3. With regards to the 'lost then found' e-mails. I'm sure that during her evidence to the select committee, Rebekah Brooks stated that the report that they had been re-discovered was in fact untrue. I'm sure she also said something about the Information Commissioner being happy with, what I presume, was a mistaken report from those looking for e-mails.

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  4. While it may be ill-advised to don such an extreme tan in view of Glasgow’s pish awful climate it is not yet a crime. Whatever offences may have been committed by Tommy Sheridan they are surely nothing set against the unprincipled and morally bankrupt activities others have been accused of in the case.

    Any natural justice would have the whole lot of them banged up, together, including the liars and the bought-off – whoever they may be.

    If testimony was given on the assumption that no verification could be raised in court because of deliberate tampering with evidence then surely this should, if not in law, raise doubts about everything that was said by certain witnesses, albeit for the defence. Is perjury in court limited only to certain individuals? Is the law oddly selective in deciding who and who should not be locked up for tampering with evidence and telling lies?

    The degree of bitterness displayed by some over Sheridan borders on the hysterical and is largely politically motivated for the man himself has not drawn the country into wars, committed any atrocity that I know of but only hurt himself and his family.

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  5. As you know, I'm not great at Scots law, like most of the English media. But even under English law, Tommy would need to demonstrate that Coulson's evidence was significant in the decision reached before getting the conviction set aside. So I'm not quite sure why - in this particular case - the English media are getting things so wrong.

    Patrick's point is entirely correct, although his case is no different from those of the Dowlers, Mrs Payne, Jude Law and thousands of others, and has no bearing on his criminal conviction.

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  6. Lena - actually, that's a very good point. LPW, is Coulson at risk of a perjury charge under Scots law?

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  7. Your mum sounds like a very sensible lady. I am with her all the way!

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  8. John b - you'll find some thoughts re Mr Coulson and perjury charges here - http://bit.ly/mYtzd6. If I was a betting man, and thankfully I am not, I think there is more likelihood of Mr Bird from the NotW witnesses facing such a charge rather than the other two, and this in respect of the "missing" emails.

    LPW - an excellent analysis as always. Recent cases at the High Court have shown that, as Lord Hope commented, it is very hard to get over the "new evidence" "miscarriage of justice" hurdle.

    Whilst I would not be quite as dogmatic as Mr McBride QC (although he did in fact have the benefit of seeing all the evidence in court as Mrs Sheridan's counsel) I think that, in the absence of an email being a "smoking gun" as you suggest, then the appeal has little or no prospect of success.

    Whilst a failure to get through the first sift is not fatal, there are, as far as I am aware, not a huge number of cases which, having failed at first sift, get through at the second.

    From a political point of view (and clealry politics have no bearing on the Court's deliberations) the best way for the appeal to be disposed of is by it failing to pass the sift. Mr Sheridan might then allege that he has been denied justice, whilst avoiding the further humiliation of having the whole matter re-hashed at the Appeal Court, where I am sure there would be adverse comment on the capabilities of Mr Sheridan in representing himself at the trial (and indeed at the appeal should he choose to act for himself there).

    In fact, if Mr Sheridan's counsel had conducted the trial in the manner which he did, then he might well have an "Anderson" appeal open to him on the grounds of defective representation. I do not think however that one can found an appeal on defective representation by oneself!

    Regarding Patrick Hadfield's point in connection with a damages action by Mr Sheridan, then I think this might be a card in respect of the NotW appeal against his damages award. I think the appeal issue in the civil case provides even more juicy legal meat for us to get our teeth into, which I am presently chewing on.

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  9. It takes the most astonishing IT skills to lose so many emails.
    A man of this gargantuan carelessness will always be in demand.

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  10. I'm not in the legal profession so apologies if this sounds like a dumb question but what are the ethics regards McBride representing Coulson and Bird? I appreciate QC's take on the work they want but is there nothing that would raise issues over this situation?

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  11. Wow you're not just a pretty face, Sir. Indeed you have laid out the main issues with clarity and precision.
    Living at some distance from Scotland and not a NOTW reader my knowledge of this case came from the usual sparse BBC National News coverage of Scottish affairs.
    However I was in Glasgow a few weeks after the latest court case and was informed on several occasions that there remained a very bad smell from this affair. It was being said that the 'lady journalist' involved had been under considerable 'pressure' from NOTW to testify. There was also some concern about police behaviour. Could NOTW have had a similar relationship to Glasgow police as they seem to have had with the Met ?
    I assume you are not a Glasgow solicitor and thus have no knowledge of these concerns

    PS I appreciate that your use of your mother's opinions was to help establish your own impartiality.
    Sadly her views only served to remind me why I fled Scotland many years ago and sought sanctuary south of the border!

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  12. It's unlikely that Tommy would have been found guilty if the jury had known that the editor in charge of all the stories about him was a liar who had no problem bribing police officers and committing perjury. They would have looked at the case in a different light. More likely to take Tommy's side. Did Tommy's defence team mention the 2003 inquiry where Coulson and Brooks admitted police bribery ? This might have swayed the jurors who voted in favour of News International.

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  13. Shuggie thinking along your lines a re-trial must be on the cards.

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  14. Terrence.
    Yes hopefully he will at least get a re trial. Jurors are just normal citizens so you can imagine the outcome of the trial being different if the NOTW / Dowler/ Palin etc story had been in the public domain before the trial started.
    There should also be an inquiry into the role of BBC Scotland and their hour long 'documentary' ( attack )on Sheridan on the day he was found guilty. They've refused to explain how they obtained confidential police interview tapes of Tommy and his wife or how they managed to make an hour long documentary just hours after the trial. They must have had the tapes before Tommy was found guilty. This is a criminal offence punishable by prison. Failure to bring the BBC to account has emboldened them and allowed them to defame Ally McCoist where they admitted splicing a smirking Ally from a previous interview into an interview about Sectarianism. It tried to show that Ally didn't care about the subject. Indeed the bbc man said 'Well Ally might not care but others do'. Only when Ally refused to speak to the BBC did they relent and apologise for their 'mistake'. They also admitted splicing a smirking Alex Salmond into a speech by John Swinney making it appear that Alex was mocking him. There are hundreds of other examples of BBC media manipulation used by them to further their agenda. All paid for by us mugs on threat of prison.

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  15. Oh. My. God.

    The fact that the News of the World are scum does NOT make it OK for an elected member of the Scottish Parliament to deliberately tell lies in a court of law.

    Two wrongs do not make a right.

    It makes me sick to see so many people trying to equivocate on that issue.

    The whole system surely depends on citizens believing that they have an obligation to tell the truth when they are in a oourt of law.

    And we are surely entitled to expect that a member of parliament, a person occupying a responsible and respected position in society, feels under that same obligation.

    If that is grounds for anyone leaving the country then God help us.

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  16. Indy said...

    "The fact that the News of the World are scum does NOT make it OK for an elected member of the Scottish Parliament to deliberately tell lies in a court of law."

    He was found guilty because the full scuminess of his accusers wasn't known by the jury. Was the jury told that the NOTW editor bribed police officers ? Would that not have swayed them to see the whole NOTW story as a pack of lies and Tommy told the truth ? You say Tommy told lies because a jury found him guilty of telling lies. That jury wasn't aware of all the facts and may have decided that he wasn't telling lies after all if they had been made aware of the facts.

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  17. Indy no-one is equivocating or conflating.
    A cabal of witnesses, with an illegal agenda, both unknown to the court, raises the question of contempt.
    NOTW witnesses either side may have dispelled this suspicion.

    Outwith the legal niceties there is disquiet that a media organisation can wield such power.

    That evidence against Sheridan may have been obtained illegally, no matter by whom, warrants investigation.

    The state cannot subcontract its way around these legal niceties.

    What is suspicious is the desire of so many to keep the lid firmly closed on this one. And the facile arguments put up to ensure this.

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  18. I am sorry but you are both still equivocating.

    This is not about whether you are for Tommy Sheridan or for the NoW.

    It would appear that both sides told lies in court. And both sides should be treated equally.

    If anybody lies on oath that is perjury - and they should be punished for it.

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  19. Indy said..

    " It would appear that both sides told lies in court"

    You're wavering from your previous position ( Tommy deliberately told lies ) and accusing us of equivocating ;)
    The 'proof' that Tommy told lies was from a source that failed to tell the jury it had previously bribed police officers and had hacked dead people's phones to help sell newspapers. Do you not think the jury would have come to a different verdict if they had known this ?

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  20. I thought the source of the evidence that Tommy had told lies was members (or ex-members) of the SSP! LPW was even at pains to stress this in his article - that whether or not NOTW people lied may not have had any significant bearing on the jury's deliberations.

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  21. Shuggie,

    "Did Tommy's defence team mention the 2003 inquiry where Coulson and Brooks admitted police bribery?"

    This is, of course, subject to the fact that Tommy dismissed his defence team and represented himself. And that he didn't raise the subject of the inquiry.

    "The 'proof' that Tommy told lies was from a source that failed to tell the jury it had previously bribed police officers and had hacked dead people's phones to help sell newspapers. Do you not think the jury would have come to a different verdict if they had known this ?
    The 'proof' came from a number of sources. Yes, the NOTW video was one but, as Holebender states, so were his ex-comrades from the SSP Executive. That would not prevent the jury being swayed of course.

    I would note that despite my ocassional breaches of the Road Traffic Act, and even the one conviction, that doesn't mean that I am guilty of masterminding an establishment and media conspiracy to chuck the leader of the Dodgy Tan party into the nearest oubliette.

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  22. Holebender said..

    "I thought the source of the evidence that Tommy had told lies was members (or ex-members) of the SSP! LPW was even at pains to stress this in his article - that whether or not NOTW people lied may not have had any significant bearing on the jury's deliberations."


    It's just LPW's opinion holey. I followed the trial and saw the NOTW video getting more interest than anything his ex friends in the SSP said. Plus the 'missing' NOTW e mails would have been handy to the defence.

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  23. Thanks for the comments, folk. I intend to respond more meaningfully anon to some of the points you raised. However, you will all likely be interested to hear, via the BBC, that Sheridan's appeal against conviction has apparently been rejected by judges of the Court of Criminal Appeal, upholding Wheatley's rejection of the case in the first "sift".

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  24. My 2c of respectful disagreement

    http://lefthooked.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/hacking-pppeals-and-video-tapes-pt-1/

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  25. However even if Coulson did lie and perjure himself and the emails were "lost" unless they had evidence that Tommy hadn't done what he was accused of like planning a conspiracy with the witnesses (of which I was one) how does it help TS?

    TS may be able to seek damages of News International if they illegally hacked into his phone - good luck to him if he does but it doesn't change the fact that he was convicted of perjury on evidence with nothing to do with Coulson and hacking phones.

    TS should just put his head down and he'll be out for Xmas on a Home Detention Curfew.

    I think it is safe to say regardless on what position we find ourselves on about Mr S that the News of the Screws did not cover themselves in glory and have been quite dastardly but even in their dastardliness it doesn't take away from the fact that Mr S lied in court.

    Sometimes its just best to be a bit contrite and live with the consequences and build a bridge and get over it.

    Mr S should accept his conviction and look to the future as should others.

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  26. No Shuggie I am not wavering - I believe that Tommy told lies because of the number of his ex party colleagues who testified to that effect.

    My personal opinion from the start was that he was lying for the simple reason that I did not believe it was possible that three quarters of the SSP NEC would engage in a conspiracy which involved lying to the police and then lying in court in order support a story published in the News of the World.

    Given how strongly very left wing people feel about the NoW that seemed to me to be so impausible as to be impossible - besides which the chances of a conspiracy involving so many people actually succeeding would always have been slight, the more people there are involved in a conspiracy the less likely it being that said conspiracy will come off.

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  27. Incidentally I know quite a few people around the Tommy Sheridan circle who have never even pretended that the truth mattered. All that mattered to them was that it was about getting one over on the News of the World, as if that was an excuse for committing perjury.

    I have even heard people saying it is outrageous that Tommy was prosecuted for perjury when other people tell lies in court and don't get done for it. They overlook the fact that there is a big difference between people involved in a criminal lifestyle and members of parliament - or at least there should be!

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  28. Indy,
    I'm not sure why you're ignoring my main point. That juries aren't interested in legalese but go by instinct. Their instinct about the NOTW wasn't tainted by dead children hacking or police bribery so they took what they said as probably true. Subsequently we've seen that NOTW hacked phones etc so it was easy for them to splice Tommy's hacked voice onto the video of the bloke in the infamous confession video. The BBC regularly splice people into videos to further their agenda so the NOTW would feel able to do the same.

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  29. A response or two to some of the points you raise. Firstly...

    John_b,

    I haven't written anything about it yet, but the definition of perjury in Scots Law is not simply lying under oath. According to the case law, for lies under oath to found a perjury charge, they must be "material", "relevant" to the trial in which they are solicited. I haven't had time to look into the jurisprudence of the High Court on this in any detail - and prima facie I find them a bit unclear. However, this much is definitely true. Lying under oath, in Scots law, is not always perjury, and it will depend on what you lie about, and what proceeding you give that false evidence in concern. I cannot say, with any confidence, at this point whether any of Coulson's testimony - if knowingly falsely given - would be perjury in law or not. It does raise interesting questions similar to those I was discussing about a new evidence appeal, since Sheridan himself conceded that Coulson's evidence was peripheral to the issues dealt with by the jury in the indictment.

    Albalha,

    Although I've heard the rumours about Paul McBride and Coulson - I know nothing about a Bird connection. What sort of ethical issue did you have in mind?

    terrence, shuggie,

    I can't really understand where you are coming from. By all means, if you find the reasoning compelling, identify and argue some aspect of the procedure was unfair. However, it is just daft to be making predictions about what the Court of Criminal Appeal would do, without engaging with the standards they apply - and that isn't just a question of my opinion. Shuggie, you are likely correct that juries do not make decisions in the strict manner in which the law ascribes to them. However, here we're talking about what a Court will do, not a jury. And I'll tell you this for nothing, no Scots Court will allow a criminal appeal, based on the argument that "juries aren't interested in legalese but go by instinct". Judges are profoundly interested in legalese - and it is judges who will make any decision in any further Sheridan appeal which might be undertaken.

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  30. I'm enjoying the view as those who told us how serious perjury is and how much public interest was at stake in sending Sheridan to jail now rush to tell us how the perjury of others doesn't matter. Comedy gold, widely available in Scottish pubs and internet forums.

    At times like this I'm so glad we're not independent. As England holds senior police officers to account for collusion, we seem incapable of even grasping the concept, and that's despite us having the most obvious case to answer where millions of pounds of taxpayers' money was spent to help the News of the World overcome a setback at a civil trial. Honestly, you couldn't make it up.

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  31. this argument is pointless the important question is about the politically motivated investigation and prosecution in the first place. A civil jury in Edinburgh heard substantially the same evidence and came to a completely different conclusion. This in itself should be enough to create reasonable doubt.The decision to start an investigation of perjury in such circumstances can only be described as politically motivated and oppressive. The facts emerging in the Leveson inquiry about the close relations between News International, the political establishment and the police make it clear that this persecution was unethical and contrary to the principles of justice rather than the narrowly defined legal points being argued here. It was rather a cunning trap that Tommy set for Andy Coulson, rather ironic that Coulson's been charged with perjury in a perjury trial and as Coulson will no doubt be reflecting his loyalty to the Murdoch's has not been reciprocated as they hang him out to dry.

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