I have posted regularly on the Tommy Sheridan defamation case. It’s still going, although now on its last legs. (which reminds me of the funniest comment on the case to date – the man from The Herald who has added greatly to the levity of the nation in his straight-faced reports on every edition of Newsnight Scotland in recent weeks at one point identified an Orwellian strain in Sheridan’s case, “Four legs good, six legs better.”)
With one juror departed on holiday, others enjoying the air conditioned delights of court 6 at the Court of Session (heavy irony) have been enjoying the theatrical climax of the presentation of the case. Yesterday Sheridan summed up in his own inimitable style. He offered to strip for the jury (arguably not the best course of action in a case about your sexual activity) and used his full political orator arsenal – overcome with the passion and emotion of his case it appears that he forgot to make a forensic critique of the evidence (as might have been expected). For Sheridan to win he has to show that the remarks are defamatory (ie would lower him in the minds of right thinking people). However, in defamation veritas is a complete defence. This means that if the stories are true the newspaper wins. Accordingly Sheridan in his summing up tried to show the story was untrue.
“From four-in-a-bed to five-in-a-bed. From five-in-a-bed to sex clubs. From sex clubs to champagne. From champagne to cocaine. From cocaine to orgies in a hotel slap bang in the middle of Glasgow.
“The allegations in the course of this case have been as numerous as grains of sand in the Sahara Desert but evidence, but real tangible, substantial evidence, has been conspicuous by its absence.”
Counsel for the News of the World has been more orthodox. Beginning yesterday Michael Jones QC has slowly and painstakingly taken the jury through the evidence in order to demonstrate why the News of the World story is true. He referred to the many SSP executive committee members who stated that Sheridan admitted visits to the swingers clubs.
“History is littered with the political corpses of great men who have been brought down by their own recklessness.” he said. I this context reference was made to the untimely dismissal of the legal team by Sheridan Indeed, Archer, Aitken, Hamilton, Parkinson, Blunkett (twice), Mandelson (twice), Maudling, Prescott (coming soon to a news bulletin near you if Guido is to be believed – and he’s been pretty accurate on Prescott stories to date).
Today, there’s been more of the same with Jones making reference to those that alleged that the activities had taken place, specifically Ms Trolle (who it appears Sheridan omitted to ask if she was making the story up for money).
“In this case, the sands of Mr Sheridan’s lines of arguments were constantly shifting and you have seen evidence of that happening.”
Lord Turnbull (former Prosecuting QC in the Lockerbie case) is to direct the jury before they retire to consider their decision.
A reminder of the main points of the case so far. Most of Sheridan’s parliamentary colleagues recall he admitted attending swingers clubs; but some of his parliamentray colleagues don’t recall any such admission; there is a minute of the SSP executive committee which narrates his admission and which was confirmed by a number of the committee members and the person who wrote it; but some SSP executive members don’t recall it and have never seen it before; some women claimed that they happened upon Mr Sheridan in a compromising position in a hotel; various women alleged they had had sexual relations with Mr Sheridan; but some of them were paid for the story and some of them admitted embellishing their accounts in various ways; and none of them mentioned how hairy he was, and Mr Sheridan is very very hairy – indeed he is so hairy that rolling an ice cube around his nether regions and placing same in a glass would give the drinker a hairball; and in any event while he was purportedly carrying out this activity he was with his father-in-law sharing the world’s most expensive plate of chips or playing scrabble (about which he is obsessive) with his wife; and it was alleged by some that Mr Sheridan is – despite his protestations to the contrary – hard drinking coke-head; although others say he wouldn’t know one end of a wine bottle from the other. And eleven tired Edinburghers desperate to get home to watch Trisha and Deal or No Deal have to decide which version they prefer. Well to the jurors, as the Gestapo officer says to Gordon Jackson as he climbs onto the bus in The Great Escape, Good luck.
We await their decision with thinly disguised glee.