Glasgow & West Scotland

Tommy Sheridan perjury trial jury sent home for night

Tommy Sheridan
Image caption Mr Sheridan's closing speech to the jury lasted five hours

The jury in the Tommy Sheridan perjury trial at the High Court in Glasgow has been sent home for the night.

Jurors will return on Thursday to continue their deliberations on whether to convict the politician of six allegations of lying in court.

In his closing speech, Mr Sheridan said he wanted to keep a promise to spend Christmas with his daughter.

The 46-year-old denies lying during his successful defamation case against the News of the World in 2006.

The former Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) leader won £200,000 after the newspaper printed allegations that he had committed adultery and visited a swingers' club.

After the court action, Mr Sheridan and his wife Gail, who is also 46, were charged with perjury.

Wife acquitted

The charges against Mrs Sheridan were withdrawn by the Crown last week and she was acquitted.

During a trial lasting two-and-a-half months, the number of perjury allegations against Mr Sheridan has been reduced by the prosecution from 18 to six.

Mr Sheridan, who has been conducting his own defence, began his five-hour speech to the jury on Tuesday afternoon and finished shortly before lunchtime on Wednesday.

The trial heard from more than a dozen witnesses who said he admitted, at a meeting of the SSP on 9 November 2004, visiting a sex club.

In his final closing remarks, he accused his former colleagues in the SSP of "spewing bile" against him as part of a "political civil war" within the left of the party.

He said: "A political civil war which, quite frankly, I couldn't expect you to care a jot for."

He said that the left fought a lot and "sometimes that fight gets bitter".

Mr Sheridan said the SSP executive had openly admitted discussing the defiance of a court order in relation to the minutes of the 9 November meeting.

He said: "Is it too big a leap of the imagination, if a group of people are willing to get together and defy a court order - would they get together and decide to lie in court?

"It's not too big a leap of the imagination."

Mr Sheridan contrasted the "unreliable and inconsistent" evidence of some of his former SSP colleagues to that of Rosemary Byrne, Graham McIver and others who said he denied swingers' club visits at the gathering.

'Unreliable' evidence

Their testimony, he said, was "honest and straightforward".

Mr Sheridan also contrasted the quality of the evidence of Gary Clark, who is alleged to have accompanied the politician and others to Cupid's in Manchester on 27 September 2002, with the testimony of Alan Brown, who said Mr Sheridan gave him a lift home after attending an SSP event in Glasgow that night.

Mr Sheridan said Mr Clark agreed his testimony was unreliable due to his use of alcohol and his depression at the time while Mr Brown told the advocate depute he was "absolutely" sure that it was the same night he met the politician outside the Centre for Contemporary Arts.

He accused senior News of the World staff of thinking they were "above the law" and said he wanted to see Scottish editor Bob Bird and news editor Douglas Wight in the dock.

Mr Sheridan suggested his phone may have been tampered with by a private detective employed by the newspaper and said it was guilty of exploiting Fiona McGuire, a woman who he said had told lies about him.

He said: "I don't want to see Fiona McGuire in the dock. I do want to see Bob Bird, Douglas Wight and others who have lied in the dock."

Concluding his speech, Mr Sheridan told how he was jailed when he stood up to Margaret Thatcher and the poll tax, and when he campaigned against nuclear weapons.

But he told the jury: "I've never been involved in a crime of dishonesty in my life.

"The News of the World and the Murdoch press, the Sun, have tried to destroy me and destroy my reputation.

"I'm not frightened of them. I've fought them all my life and I'll go on fighting them."

'Reasonable doubt'

Almost breaking down, the former MSP told the jury: "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.

"Never mind the emotion, 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."

Trial judge Lord Bracadale then addressed the jury on points of law before they retired to consider their verdict.

He told the 12 women and two men that this was "not a political court" and urged them not to "judge people on their politics", adding "this is not a court of sexual morals".

"It is not your function to judge the sexual morality of anyone involved in this case," the judge said.

Nor, said Lord Bracadale, was it the jury's function to judge the morality of telling lies.

He told the jury to put out of their minds the consequences of any verdict they might reach.

He said Tommy Sheridan had referred to those consequences "in emotional terms" but he insisted this was not a matter for the jury, adding "it is a matter for me".

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