Glasgow & West Scotland

Tommy Sheridan jailed for three years for perjury

Tommy Sheridan being driven away from court in a prison van
Image caption Tommy Sheridan being driven away from court in a prison van

The disgraced former MSP Tommy Sheridan has been jailed for three years for committing perjury.

Sheridan was convicted at the High Court in Glasgow last month of lying during his successful defamation case against the News of the World in 2006.

The newspaper had claimed that the socialist politician was an adulterer who had visited a swingers' club.

The sentence means that Sheridan is not likely to serve more than 18 months before being released.

Sheridan announced his intention to both appeal against his conviction and launch a legal action in relation to the phone hacking controversy surrounding the News of the World.

Jailing Sheridan for three years, Lord Bracadale told him: "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 (SSP) 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."

The judge said that perjury was a "serious crime" and had to be "dealt with seriously for the benefit of the courts and the public generally".

He added: "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.

'Appropriate sentence'

"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."

Image caption Sheridan announced his intention to appeal against his conviction

The judge said he had not taken Sheridan's previous convictions into account as he had judged that they were not relevant to the perjury trial, and he had also considered what Sheridan had said in mitigation.

Sheridan, 46, listened to the judge's comments in silence and stared straight ahead as he was handcuffed by the dock officers.

The politician's family - including his wife Gail - and some supporters stood in unison with clenched fists and shouted "solidarity".

His mum Alice yelled: "The man that could not be bought."

Sheridan shouted back as he walked downstairs: "Love you. Take care, all the best."

Mrs Sheridan, 46, who was also accused of perjury but later acquitted, was hugged by the family's lawyer Aamer Anwar after her husband had left the courtroom.

He said in a statement read outside court by his solicitor, Mr Anwar: "For far too long News of the World has scapegoated and destroyed lives with immunity.

"This multi-million pound prosecution will separate me from my wife and child and that will be heartbreaking.

"But I will continue to fight a system that protects the real criminals, the rich and the powerful.

"I have today instructed my solicitor to launch an appeal against conviction but also to launch a legal action against News of the World, the Metropolitan Police and Glen Mulcaire over phone hacking.

"In addition my solicitors will begin to contact a dossier of Scottish names handed to them, of those whose phones may have been hacked.

"Andy Coulson may have resigned for a second time but if he and others are not above the law then it is time that they faced real justice. That chapter is yet to be written.

"But also to launch legal action against the News of the World, the Metropolitan Police and Glenn Mulcaire over phone hacking.

Mrs Sheridan then gave her reaction to her husband's sentence.

Reading a short statement, she said: "Tommy has dedicated his life to helping others.

"The real reason why he has been imprisoned today is because he has fought injustice and inequality with every beat of his heart.

"But it won't be long before Tommy is back - stronger and continuing the fight."

A News of the World spokesman said the sentence provided "closure for the many witnesses who very bravely exposed their own lives to public scrutiny when they testified to Mr Sheridan's guilt".

Newspaper appeal

The newspaper said: "Mr Sheridan has been jailed for lying to a court to secure victory when he sued the News of the World for defamation in 2006. At the time he was an elected member of the Scottish Parliament.

"As we have made clear, we have an appeal lodged against that defamation verdict and we now look forward to that appeal succeeding in Scotland's Court of Session."

Former and existing political colleagues of Sheridan also gave their reaction.

In a statement, the SSP's Frances Curran and Colin Fox said of their former leader: "Today's proceedings at Glasgow High Court finally end the ill-advised action Tommy Sheridan initiated six years ago in suing a tabloid over allegations he knew to be true.

"He alone is responsible for where he sleeps tonight, no-one else. He pursued legal action full in the knowledge he would lie in court.

"He asked his closest political allies and friends to join him in that crazy strategy and then turned on us because we refused. He still shows no sign of taking responsibility for his own actions."

Solidarity, the party Sheridan formed after leaving the SSP, described his sentence as "barbaric and draconian".

The party said in a statement: "Solidarity will continue to give our full backing and support and backing to Tommy, and in particular to Gail Sheridan and the family at this difficult time.

"Neither Tommy Sheridan nor Solidarity will be broken. We stand, as always, in solidarity."

Sheridan, who represented himself during the trial, delivered a 40-minute plea in mitigation at the High Court in Glasgow on Wednesday morning.

During his statement, he said the jury had faced an "intense, complex and arduous task" and that he had been convicted by the "narrowest majority".

The politician described the original story in the News of the World as a "pack of lies".

He also said: "This is not a murder trial, nobody has died nor has an innocent party been imprisoned."

Sheridan quoted the sentences given to other high profile perjurers - former Conservative MPs Jonathan Aitken and Lord Archer.

He said Aitken had been jailed for 18 months while Archer had received four years for two charges of perjury and for perverting the course of justice.

This was compared to Sheridan's own conviction on one charge of perjury, which contained five allegations.

Plea in mitigation, prepared by Sheridan and lawyer Aamer Anwar

The politician said that "money or financial gain" had never been a motive for him and stressed that the social inquiry report had assessed him as being of low risk for harm to the public and for re-offending.

He added: "I accept custody is inevitable. The punishment is the conviction itself and the impact it will have on my family."

Sheridan then told the judge that his mother had suffered from cancer and that he was the "primary carer" for his sick father.

He also said that he faced "severe financial problems" as it would be difficult to find employment in the areas in which he was interested - politics and the law.

The 46-year-old said that the media were "baying" for the judge to make an example of him but asked Lord Bracadale to treat him as leniently as possible.

He finished his plea in mitigation by saying: "I expect to deal with custody but my primary concern is the devastating affect it will have on my family."

During his address to court, Sheridan never admitted guilt or protested his innocence.

The 12-week trial, which ended two days before Christmas, was the longest perjury case in Scottish legal history.

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