Scottish politician going to jail after perjury conviction

Friday, December 24, 2010

Tommy Sheridan, a former Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), has been told to expect a prison sentence in the new year. Sheridan was yesterday convicted of perjury before Glasgow High Court, the jury ruling he lied in a libel case against The News of the World (NotW).

Tommy Sheridan

Sheridan, 46, sued the paper in 2006 over allegations he had been in extra-marital affairs, visited a sex club and participated in orgies. He was awarded £200,000. Thought to be the longest-running perjury trial in Scotland's history, the twelve-week case started with Sheridan facing eighteen allegations. By the end of the trial, he faced six in a single charge; the jury ruled he was guilty of five of them. His wife Gail, 46, was also charged but this was dropped by the prosecution as part of proceedings.

The case dates back to 2004, when the NotW ran a series of articles. Central to these were claims he had visited Manchester sex club Cupids. He would later claim in court he had not confessed to former friends about these visits, but the jury decided yesterday this was a lie. They said he was also lying when he said he did not have an affair with Katrine Trolle, a former activist with the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP). Trolle claimed they had sex in the Sheridan marital bed at their Glasgow home, but the jury did not accept this part of the allegation.

The jury cleared him totally of lying when he said he did not have an affair with Anvar Khan, a NotW columnist whose memoirs sparked the original reports. The relationship was alleged to have begun in 1994 and carried on until 2003; Tommy and Gail married in 2000.

I have and will always stand by Tommy

—Tommy Sheridan's wife, Gail

A former friend of Tommy Sheridan, George McNeilage, made a tape recording said to be of Sheridan admitting visits to Cupids. Sheridan claimed it was faked. Conducting his own defence after releasing his counsel, Maggie Scott, QC, within two weeks of the trial starting, he said there was a "vendetta" against him. Several SSP members said he had confessed to affairs. Sheridan also provided his own counsel in his successful libel action, which is now being appealed against.

Trial judge Lord Bracadale is seeking background reports prior to sentencing, which will be on January 26. Sheridan can make any submissions he wishes to then. "You have been convicted of the serious offence of perjury," Lord Bracadale told Sheridan "and must return to court expecting to begin a prison sentence."

"We have an appeal lodged against that defamation verdict and we now look forward to that appeal succeeding in Scotland's Court of Session," the paper said in respect of the libel action. NotW has paid £200,000 for the tape of Sheridan's confession that was used in the trial.

"I have and will always stand by Tommy," vowed his wife.

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