Court hears Tommy Sheridan denied sex club claims

image captionMr Sheridan is conducting his own defence

A party colleague of Tommy Sheridan has told a perjury trial the former MSP denied at a meeting in 2004 that he had ever visited a swingers club.

John Penman said Mr Sheridan told Scottish Socialist Party members an MSP alleged by a newspaper to have visited a sex club could not have been him.

Mr Sheridan and his wife Gail, both 46, are on trial accused of perjury.

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

The former SSP leader won £200,000 in damages after the newspaper printed allegations about his private life, claiming he was an adulterer who had visited a swingers club.

Mr Penman's evidence conflicted with 15 other witnesses who have told the jury at the High Court in Glasgow that Mr Sheridan admitted the claim at the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) meeting on 9 November, 2004.

Mr Penman, 60, said he was in no doubt about what he heard at the gathering.

He told the court: "He said that the MSP couldn't be him. He said the description was all wrong. He said the MSP had gone to swingers' clubs and I've never been to a swingers club."

'Takes cocaine'

Advocate Depute Alex Prentice QC asked him: "You're in no doubt he said that?"

Mr Penman replied "yes" and told the jury that Mr Sheridan went on: "And it says the MSP gets drunk and takes cocaine. I don't drink and I don't take cocaine. You know that that's not me."

Mr Penman said Mr Sheridan told colleagues that he did not think the article referred to anybody, that he thought it was "just a made-up story".

Earlier in the trial, Mr Sheridan accused a witness of being "the snitch" who told a paper about his resignation as SSP leader.

Alan McCombes denied being cynical by talking to the press and insisted he did so to protect the party from Mr Sheridan's "smears and lies".

image captionMr McCombes denied being part of any faction within the SSP

The former MSP, who is representing himself in the perjury trial, was cross-examining Mr McCombes for a second day at the High Court in Glasgow.

Mr Sheridan has previously questioned witnesses from the SSP about a "plot to undermine me politically" and a "cabal" against him.

But Mr McCombes told the trial: "I wasn't involved in any faction within the SSP. I argued against that."

He said people who were now in Mr Sheridan's Solidarity party had accused him of being "what was called a liquidator".

"I was attacked by people who are now in your Solidarity Party for abandoning Marxism and Leninism in favour of a broad Socialist party," he added.

Under cross-examination from Mr Sheridan, Mr McCombes was asked about different groups within the SSP, including the SWP, Scottish Militant Labour and the International Socialist Movement.

He explained the various origins of each group and how they came to evolve into the SSP, adding: "I am not sure how this is relevant to the issues being discussed.

"I am sure the jury's eyes must be glazing over to go into this level of detail."

Mr Sheridan told him: "The point I am making is that pre-meeting caucuses did take place and factions did hold meetings."

Mr McCombes replied: "Yes, but I was not involved with them."

He also asked the judge if Mr Sheridan was allowed to ask the questions he was putting to him, saying the former MSP was being deliberately "misleading".

He said: "I'm being asked questions when the person asking the questions knows he is misleading me, knows he is lying."

'Dodgy document'

Lord Bracadale replied: "If it was not a proper question, I would not allow it to be asked."

Mr McCombes, the SSP's former press and policy officer, was also accused of helping to forge a minute of an emergency SSP meeting of 9 November 2004 in which Mr Sheridan allegedly admitted to attending a swingers' club.

Mr Sheridan said the minutes that were handed over by the party were a "dodgy document" that did not reflect what he says happened at the meeting.

He said Mr McCombes, who was jailed for contempt of court after he refused to give the minutes to the News of the World in 2006, went to jail to "enhance the status" of what he said was a false minute.

Mr McCombes told him: "It was you who forged a document and sent it to the News of the World.

"I do know that you were being deceitful and dishonest. You were the first and only person to question the authenticity of these minutes.

"These minutes were undisputed until you went to the Court of Session and incredibly - to our incredulity - denied the authenticity, and then presented what was really a dodgy and forged minute which I believe was your concoction.

"You are lying Tommy, this is one of the hundreds of lies which you have uttered in the past six years."

Mr McCombes added that he had not handed over the minutes because he wanted to protect the SSP "from being dragged into the toxic legal quagmire that you had created with your reckless and suicidal mistake of going to the Court of Session".

Mr Sheridan then produced his diary entry for November 1 2004, which read: "Meeting with KB and AMc - Row - They don't believe me."

Mr McCombes responded: "I don't know when it was entered but it is not an accurate recording of that discussion."

Mr McCombes was also questioned about a video apparently showing Mr Sheridan discussing the case with George McNeilage which was obtained by the News of the World following the defamation trial.

'Scurrilous accusation'

He asked Mr McCombes if he had "scripted" the video and "helped" Mr McNeilage to make the film.

Mr McCombes told him: "That is nonsense. Neither did I hire Rory Bremner to do an impression of you, Tommy.

"I did not write a script for that tape and that is another scurrilous false accusation."

He said he felt the jury in the 2006 action had come to a "mistaken decision" in finding against the News of the World, adding that he had been "shocked to the core" by the way Mr Sheridan had conducted the case.

He said: "You put your own party on trial. People have been accused of quite serious criminal acts - of perjury, of dishonesty."

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, before Lord Bracadale, continues.

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