Sex scandal rocks Scottish politics

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Scottish flag.
The Scottish Parliament Building in Edinburgh.

A controversial defamation court case is continuing today in Edinburgh after hearing fresh allegations against one of Scotland's most influential politicians. Tommy Sheridan, a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) and convener of the Scottish Socialist Party, is pressing ahead with the case despite claims of orgies and other sexual acts by tabloid newspaper The News of the World.

Since the case began over a week ago, the courtroom has heard allegations from several journalists, MSPs and colleagues of Mr Sheridan, with witnesses telling of scandals varying from extra-marital group sex to "threats that someone would pull out a tongue". The case began after The News of the World printed several pieces in 2004 and 2005, making allegations regarding Mr Sheridan's personal life. The newspaper stands by the articles as true, despite the MSP claiming £200,000 in damages.

Many of the original articles centre around the former market researcher Helen Allison, who claims that, in 2002, she was invited to a Glasgow hotel by a friend to attend a "VIP party." Upon arrival, she was taken up to a suite where she saw Tommy Sheridan "having sex with a female at the bottom of a bed and another man sitting at the side of the bed putting a condom on." It was alleged by The News of the World that this woman was a prostitute. It was after selling this story to the newspaper that Miss Allison received threats that her tongue would be removed.

The courtroom has also heard testimonials from another witness, 38 year-old journalist Anver Khan. Miss Khan told the court that she had visited a "Swingers' Club" in Manchester with Mr Sheridan. She has also told of threats and attacks by individuals associated with the MSP, who is currently married to Gail Sheridan. In a show of unity, the couple have been arriving at court each day hand in hand.

The trial is set to last for two weeks in total.