13 July 2009

Sheridan: "Not guilty, m'lud!"

Lord President Emslie took a dim view of perjury. In the case of Gerald Hagen v. H.M. Advocate he said that perjury is a crime which “strikes at the very roots of the rule of law and the administration of justice”. The Crown Office claim that the aforesaid Thomas Sheridan tugged at those roots in the course of his defamation action against the News of the World, and in victory, upset the foundations of public justice. In law, perjury is defined in a rounded, commonsensical sort of way as the act of wilfully making a statement in judicial proceedings, under oath, which is false.

As of today, we now have the indictment which Tommy will have to answer. It must make pretty bleak reading. In particular, a few points should be keep in one’s mind, when reviewing press reports and thinking about the context. As folk will probably recall, the News of the World alleged that Tommy indulged himself in rutting escapades. Sheridan denied this in a party-litigant tour de force. With grandiloquent pseudo-proletariaterie, the former MSP convinced a civil jury that he was the tragic victim of a malicious, Murdoch-mandated stitch up. Damages were awarded in the amount of £200,000.

The evidence, however, was notably divergent on several key points. In particular, and for politically curious creatures, particularly interesting – was the meeting of the Scottish Socialist Party “chief equals” on the 9th November 2004. In the course of that august convocation, it was claimed that Sheridan fessed up to his libido-stoked outbursts of lusty clubbing. Who danced attendance at this Executive meeting? The list is long. Including most of the Party’s ex-MSPs and apparatchiks – Allison Kane, Keith Robert Baldassara, Alan William McCombes, Allan Green, Colin Anthony Fox, Barbara Jane Scott, Carolyn Leckie, Catriona Grant, Joanna Harvie, and Rosie Kane - who all flatly insisted that Tommy did admit he got up to extra-marital mischief in Manchester.

Note the legal specificity of the charge. They question ‘did Tommy go to the Manchester coital club’ is not being rehashed and isn’t at issue as crucially as it was during the civil trial. Rather, most of the perjury charges rest on whether he told the rest of his party members that it was true – and subsequently lied to civil jury and court about doing so. Arguably, its of no matter whether citizen Sheridan did or did not go swinging, since the focal point of this bit of the perjury case seems to be on what was said about the swingers club, not the grotesque, pendulous question of whether he swung. However, that aside, other allegations of perjury do engage with this question of marital infidelity, in particular, in relation to the alleged affair with Anvar Begum Khan and Katrine Trolle.

Perhaps the most potentially interesting – and unexpected – narrative section of the indictment comes right at the beginning. In addition to the charges of perjury, Sheridan is also to face an allegation of attempting to suborn perjury. The subornee? Colin Fox. The evocative setting? The Beanscene 67 Holyrood Road. The date: 18th June 2006. It is suggested that, well-knowing what Fox would say from the witness box, Sheridan attempted to induce Fox to disclaim the minutes of the controversial SSP Executive meeting as false. Presumably, the event of the 18th was a private affair – my word against his over skinny lattes - unless Fox had the cunning and secretive foresight to tuck a voice recorder down his codpiece for the duration.

It seems clear, even at this stage, that the Crown case will focus its red-hot attention on this SSP Executive Meeting. For those of you who pine for socialists circa 2003, expect to see the promenade of fierce dames from the SSP marching in and out of Glasgow’s High Court. Expect a sparky encounter. After all, if Tommy is telling the truth – the coordinated phalanx of perjurers is on the other side and Sheridan as the impugned honest man is cast as the stoical victim of machination and intrigue. Tactically, this is cunning stuff from the Crown Office. The meeting seems the least probable part of Sheridan’s case, assuming that the majority of witnesses were being even averagely honest and that in fact, no sly socialist fraudulence was in motion. So a different jury will decide, and given the onus of the indictment, ostensibly on rather different issues.

Whatever the decision, the coverage will be vivid, courtroom drama stuff. Given that a conviction on any count almost guarantees Sheridan a jail term, I’m sure that is sharply focussing his mind. On the evidence at hand, however, it doesn’t seem rosy for Tommy. Although one jury must have accepted his version of events – in particular of the contested meeting – there is no guarantee another will do the same. Particularly since the ‘opponent’ isn’t the scabrous News of the World, who are always worth a good, civilised kicking.

For those of you who enjoy interminable successions of words without punctuation – and want the detail sans my blawging prose, the Herald have the full text of the Sheridans’ indictment here.


  1. Well he won't be standing in the Glasgow by-election now. As you say, it will be an stimulating case.

  2. Interesting that the fragrant Gail Sheridan has opted to enlist Paul McBride QC (biggest liar in the High Court) as her brief.

    That would be former Labour party supporting and now Cameron's alleged preferred candidate to stand for the Tories in Glasgow North East...

    Should be interesting...

  3. It's just a shame the Scottish courts aren't televised like the ones in the USA. Any thoughts on that wise one?