The other day I posted some background to the Tommy Sheridan defamation case. Today he has made a big gamble in sacking his counsel. From now on he will be conducting his own defence.
There is a court practitioner maxim that the party litigant has a fool for a client. At first sight I thought that this may be the end of Sheridan within the case. That he was definitely onto a loser. However, the context of the dismissal may increase jury sympathy for Sheridan as he has dismissed him following a question as to the integrity of a key witness. The advocate alleged that the witness had a conviction for dishonesty (which is untrue).
Sheridan’s legal team comprised a QC and junior advocate. The junior advocate has been conducting the case this week as the QC appeared to be in a case at the House of Lords (the Ravenscraig appeal perhaps?). While this sort of thing is common, when your reputation and future career is on the line – as with Sheridan here – it must be hard to take. Paying top rate for a top QC and then discovering that he is missing one week of the case.
The junior advocate’s line of questioning elicited suggestions that Sheridan had taken drugs; that he was involved in a five in a bed orgy, and other damaging allegations. This information was not brought out of the examination in chief by counsel for the News of the World. For a client, this must be bemusing. However, it appears from the reports that the key element of the advocate’s defence was to show the inconsistencies in the witness stories. The versions of each principal witness has differed from the published versions. This looks like an attempt to have a go at the credibility of each. However, if you are watching increasingly damaging allegations coming out after questions from the person that is representing you, an adverse client reaction is understandable.
When Sherdian represents himself how will he piece this material together. And will his undoubted passion and charisma play well in questioning before the jury? The judge has already warned one SSP witness that the court is not a place for political speeches. Can Sheridan resist?
This is a huge gamble for him. This time next week we may discover the outcome.