Glasgow & West Scotland

Anger over Tommy Sheridan 'gagging order'

Tommy Sheridan
Image caption Sheridan was jailed for lying during his successful defamation case in 2006

Tommy Sheridan's lawyer has accused prison authorities of trying to "gag" him on his release from jail.

Aamer Anwar said the former Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) leader told him he would be banned from speaking in public when he is released from Castle Huntly prison on Monday.

Mr Anwar said: "It's unprecedented, absolutely draconian and denies my client the right to earn a living."

The Scottish Prison Service said it would not comment on individual cases.

Sheridan has served just over a year of his three-year sentence for lying under oath.

The 47-year-old was jailed on 26 January last year for committing perjury during his successful defamation action against the News of the World in 2006.

Any prisoner serving a sentence of less than four years is currently eligible for automatic early release at the half-way point in their jail term.

Electronic tag

Sheridan would therefore be entitled to be freed from prison after 18 months.

However, under current provisions, it is possible for individuals to spend up to the last six months of their sentence on home detention curfew.

This means that they can be freed from prison to live at home but must wear an electronic tag for the remainder of their sentence.

Mr Anwar said Sheridan would seek a judicial review if there was an attempt to gag him as part of his release conditions.

"Once we have had a chance to check the papers, he fully intends to challenge it in the courts," he said.

"When Tommy Sheridan is released he will be hounded by certain sections of the media.

"If, over a period of six months, he was to slip or respond and that was to appear in the papers then he could be recalled to prison.

"When you are released on home detention curfew, what they are saying is you're of no threat and have met the standards required for release into society."

Mr Anwar questioned how his client could get back to normal life and engage in political activities if the speaking ban is imposed.

It has been reported Sheridan wants to play a part in the independence referendum debate.

'Democratic values'

A statement is expected to be issued after Sheridan is reunited with his family on Monday.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said any speaking ban would be undemocratic.

He said: "Although Mr Sheridan holds views that I do not agree with I do not believe his right to express these views should be curtailed.

"In the run up to May's local elections and in the early stages of the referendum debate he should be free to take an active role in promoting the things he believes in.

"To bar him participation is counter to our democratic values."

During the three-month High Court trial, Sheridan claimed he was the victim of a "vendetta" by the police and a conspiracy" involving the now-defunct News of the World and former colleagues within the SSP.

In August last year, he was denied the chance to appeal against his conviction, following a ruling by senior judges.

Sheridan's trial was one of the longest of its kind in Scottish legal history.

He was convicted of five of six allegations in a single charge of perjury, relating to his evidence during the civil action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

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