Ex-colleague 'compares Tommy Sheridan to Lord Archer'

Image caption,
Mr Sheridan is alleged to have admitted attending a swingers club

The Tommy Sheridan perjury trial has heard an ex-colleague compare the former MSP to a Conservative peer who was jailed for lying in court.

Allan Green, 53, told the High Court in Glasgow he was appalled a man known for his honesty would follow the path of Lord Jeffrey Archer.

Mr Sheridan and his wife Gail, both 46, are on trial accused of perjury.

They are accused of lying to help him successfully sue the News of the World in 2006. They deny the charges.

Mr Sheridan won £200,000 in damages after the newspaper printed allegations about his private life, claiming that he was an adulterer who had visited a swingers club with journalist Anvar Khan.

After a police investigation, Mr and Mrs Sheridan were charged with perjury.

Giving evidence on the third day of Mr Sheridan's trial, Mr Green said that he first met Mr Sheridan in the mid-1990s as the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) came into being.

The supply teacher said he was pleased when Mr Sheridan was elected as convener of the party.

He told the court: "Tommy used to be a tremendous ambassador for socialism. He was very effective at getting socialist ideas across in the media."

Mr Green said he was the SSP's national secretary when he called a meeting in November 2004 to discuss rumours about Tommy Sheridan's sex life.

He told the court the former MSP admitted visiting a swingers club but then shocked the gathering saying he would deny it publicly and take legal action to clear his name.

Mr Green told the court: "He then went on to say that the News of the World would not be able to prove that it was him.

"He explained that someone had been trying to sell the story for a while. He thought that he should be given the space to fight the allegations.

"He said that he was going to go to court and sue for libel."

'Reckless behaviour'

Mr Green, from Stirlingshire, told how he was "appalled on two counts".

He said: "There was Tommy's self confessed reckless behaviour. The idea of a politician going to a swingers club with a journalist was unbelievable.

"What troubled me more was his intention to go down the same route as the infamous Jeffrey Archer in claiming the truth was lies and the lies were truth.

"This was someone who I had so much respect for. It was truly appalling."

Mr Green told the trial he had hoped Mr Sheridan would realise the error of suing the News of the World.

He said: "I was hoping that Tommy was not thinking properly. The best option for him was just to admit the truth.

"Sex scandals are not that uncommon with politicians - we thought Tommy could get over some short term difficulty about this.

"The last thing he should do is risk his reputation for honesty."

Mr Green then added: "At least with Tommy, you knew where you stood. Our reputation I could see start to crumble if our convener went to court to try and prove lies as truth."

Pub meeting

The court was told Mr Green met Mr Sheridan and another SSP colleague Colin Fox in May 2006, prior to the defamation case at the Court of Session.

News of the World lawyers had wanted minutes from the meeting where Mr Sheridan allegedly admitted going to Cupid's swingers club in Manchester.

The trio gathered at the Golden Pheasant pub in Lenzie, East Dunbartonshire, and Mr Green had the typed minutes with him.

He told the jury that Mr Sheridan did not challenge anything substantial in the document.

Image caption,
Colin Fox and Mr Green allegedly met Mr Sheridan before his court action

Former Lothians MSP Mr Fox later told the court that Mr Sheridan was left "disappointed and angry" by the executive committee's decision to ask him to resign.

Mr Fox, who is from Edinburgh and now works in market research, said he had known Mr Sheridan for 30 years.

He said it was himself who telephoned Mr Sheridan after the emergency meeting and told him of the executive's unanimous decision to ask him to stand down.

He said: "I explained that the meeting had voted unanimously against his proposal to sue the newspaper and our position, which was for him to resign as convener of the party."

He said Mr Sheridan was "disappointed and angry" when he saw him the next day.

Mr Fox met Mr Sheridan and another ex-MSP, Frances Curran, in a hotel foyer close to the Scottish Parliament building.

He said Mr Sheridan "accepted it was the proper course of action" and they set about drafting a statement to release to the press.

Newsnight Scotland

It was to say that Mr Sheridan was stepping down as convener for "family reasons".

However, the news appeared sooner than expected, without Mr Fox's knowledge, on that evening's edition of the BBC's Newsnight Scotland programme.

Mr Fox said he was "shocked" when he saw the report.

He described Mr Sheridan as "a friend, a colleague and a close political ally".

"Someone I looked up to, someone I was inspired by. I saw him as a formidable political figure. I had great regard for him," he said.

It is alleged that Mr Sheridan made false statements as a witness in his defamation action against the News of the World on 21 July 2006.

He also denies another charge of attempting to persuade a witness to commit perjury shortly before the 23-day legal action got under way.

Mrs Sheridan denies making false statements on 31 July 2006, after being sworn in as a witness in the civil jury trial at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

The trial, before judge Lord Bracadale, is due to last between two and three months and is expected to become the longest perjury case in Scottish legal history.

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