Glasgow & West Scotland

Tommy Sheridan begins own defence in perjury trial

Tommy Sheridan
Image caption Mr Sheridan will defend himself from the dock

Tommy Sheridan has begun his own defence at his perjury trial after dismissing his legal team.

The former Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) MSP questioned his first witness after dispensing with the services of Maggie Scott QC and junior counsel.

Mr Sheridan and his wife Gail, both 46, are on trial at the High Court in Glasgow accused of perjury.

They deny lying during his successful defamation case against the News of the World in 2006.

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.

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

The trial was adjourned on Monday after Mr Sheridan parted company with his legal team. He has, however, retained solicitor Aamer Anwar.

When it reconvened on Thursday, journalist and Mr Sheridan's former SSP colleague, Joanna Harvie, was the only witness to be questioned.

The 33-year-old said she had known Mr Sheridan for about 16 years and been a member of Scottish Militant Labour before joining the SSP.

Ms Harvie told how she was alerted to a story in the News of the World in November 2004 that an MSP had visited a swingers' club with a journalist.

The trial again heard how a meeting of an SSP committee was later called amid suspicion the politician was Mr Sheridan.

Ms Harvie said Mr Sheridan admitted at the gathering that he had been to a sex club, he was "sorry" and that he did not know why he had done it.

She said she was "shocked" and "very, very upset" about this.

When Mr Sheridan motioned to leave the dock to cross-examine Ms Harvie, judge Lord Bracadale told him: "I think I would prefer you to do it from there (the dock)."

'Discusses testimony'

The ex-SSP leader replied: "I was just worried about projection - as long as you are happy with that."

Mr Sheridan returned to his position beside his wife Gail and questioned whether Ms Harvie had discussed testimony already given in the trial with anyone.

She told him: "The case has dominated my life for over a week."

Mr Sheridan claimed her husband had been in court. He went on: "He has not been talking to you about the evidence given in this court?" Ms Harview said: "No."

Mr Sheridan also questioned the witness about Duncan Rowan - another SSP member who earlier gave evidence.

Image caption Mr Sheridan dismissed Maggie Scott QC on Monday

Mr Rowan had told the jury he went to the News of the World to "protect" another woman, Fiona McGuire, who the newspaper thought was having an affair with Mr Sheridan, and gave the paper the name of Katrine Trolle.

Ms Trolle had allegedly claimed to him she had been having an affair with Mr Sheridan.

Mr Sheridan asked Ms Harvie: "What (is your view) about someone trying to spread a story about a socialist - think it would be scandalous?"

Ms Harvie said: "It would be, yes."

Mr Sheridan went on: "The truth is that you did not care because he had been there to do me in?"

She replied: "Duncan Rowan was in a state, but he reacted in a way that was so, so silly.

"He had put himself in a position by going to the News of the World. That was a silly mistake."

Mr Sheridan called the News of the World "a horrible newspaper" and claimed it was "anti socialist".

'Devastating meetings'

Mr Sheridan also referred Ms Harvie to various SSP meetings. He said: "You have had plenty of time to refresh your memory."

Ms Harvie replied: "The meeting (on 9 November 2004) was one of the most devastating meetings I have attended in my life and is something that I will remember."

The jury again heard about minutes from that meeting, which SSP members initially refused to hand over prior to the defamation case four years ago.

Mr Sheridan said: "You conspired not to hand them over."

Ms Harvie told him: "It was not a secret plot."

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 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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