Glasgow & West Scotland

Tommy Sheridan claims 'police vendetta' in court speech

Tommy Sheridan
Image caption Mr Sheridan began his closing speech on Tuesday afternoon

Tommy Sheridan has told jurors at his perjury trial that his "life is as stake" because of a "pathetic" case brought by the prosecution.

In his closing speech, he said police had conducted "a vendetta" against him and that the Crown case relied on witnesses who lacked credibility.

Mr Sheridan said if the prosecution was fair the moon "was made of cheese".

The politician denies lying during his successful defamation case against the News of the World in 2006.

The former Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) leader won £200,000 after the newspaper printed allegations that he had committed adultery and visited a swingers' club.

After the court action, Mr Sheridan and his wife Gail, both 46, were charged with perjury.

The charges against Mrs Sheridan were withdrawn by the Crown last week and she was acquitted.

'Life at stake'

During a trial lasting two-and-a-half months, the number of perjury allegations against Mr Sheridan has been reduced by the prosecution from 18 to six.

On Monday, the trial at the High Court in Glasgow heard closing remarks from Alex Prentice QC on behalf of the prosecution.

Mr Sheridan, who is representing himself, started his summation on Tuesday by apologising to the 12 women and two men on the jury, saying his speech would be "lengthy and time-consuming".

He added: "But I hope you will understand that my life's at stake.

"I've got a wee girl at home. I've got a loving wife and if you convict me I'll be separated from them for a very long time."

Mr Sheridan told the jury that there was "far too much reasonable doubt for you to find me guilty of any of the remaining six charges".

He went on to criticise Crown witnesses who had given evidence during his civil action against the News of the World in 2006.

Mr Sheridan said the prosecution's problem was that it had relied on witnesses who lacked both credibility and reliability.

The politician told the court about a police raid on his house in December 2007, saying 10 officers were at his home for eight hours, even searching the nursery of his then two-year-old daughter, Gabrielle.

"They turned the tiny pockets of her wee anorak inside out," he said.

Police 'persecution'

Mr Sheridan said the police should be ashamed of the way they conducted themselves and should be ashamed of their failure to investigate witnesses who gave evidence for the News of the World in 2006.

"The Crown's problem is they are seeking to rely on liars," he said, pointing out what he claimed were inconsistencies from prosecution witnesses.

Mr Sheridan said the case against him "wasn't a prosecution, it was a persecution".

Image caption Charges against Gail Sheridan were dropped last week

The former MSP also spoke about the now abandoned charges against his wife Gail, saying the reason she had been in the dock "was nothing to do with being guilty of perjury - she was guilty of believing in her husband".

Mr Sheridan said that 52,000 police hours and several million pounds in taxpayers' money had been spent on the case against him.

"It's not only weak but it's verging on pathetic," he said.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this has been a fair and even-handed prosecution from the start - and as we all know the moon is made of cheese."

Referring to charges of perjury which had been dropped in relation to an alleged orgy at the Moat House hotel in Glasgow, Mr Sheridan said "the whole chapter collapsed like a house of cards in the wind".

He said the charges had taken "three years to prepare" and "10 minutes to destroy".

This, Mr Sheridan suggested, was indicative of the whole prosecution case.

'Disappearing ink'

Serious and damaging charges, he said, had been "dropped like confetti" by the Crown and the case had "melted like snow off a dyke".

The indictment, Mr Sheridan said, was "written in disappearing ink" and at every stage "something has been scored out".

The politician went on to suggest that the prosecution had not been in the public interest but in the interest of the News of the World.

The newspaper had, he said, supplied a video, photographs, names of potential witnesses and phone records to the police - and had also paid "at least eight important witnesses".

Referring to circumstantial evidence presented by the Crown, Mr Sheridan said: "This is supposed to be a serious case.

"If you make a collective decision, there is a man with a wee girl and a wife, that is going to spend Christmas in jail."

Video 'doubt'

The former MSP also spoke at length about a video, for which the News of the World paid his best man George McNeilage £200,000.

It was alleged during the trial that Mr Sheridan admitted, on the video, to visiting a swingers club.

Referring to his former friend, Mr McNeilage, he said this was a man who "would do and say anything for £200,000".

There was, he said, at the very least, "reasonable doubt" as to the identity of the voice in the video, and questioned why the Crown had not led evidence from a voice expert.

"It's a helluva funny video that doesn't have the person in it," Mr Sheridan said.

"I'm saying it's an actor or a mimic. I have to prove nothing."

Mr Sheridan is expected to finish his closing speech on Wednesday.

Trial judge Lord Bracadale is then expected to address the jury on points of law before they retire to consider their verdict.

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