So Tommy Sheridan v News International enters the final Act. This morning Lord Turnbull charged the jury and they have now retired to consider their verdict. Admitting that he had never knowingly read the News of the World (again my obvious aptitude for the judiciary seems readily apparent) he urged the jury to put aside any prejudices they may have had against the
tawdry rag newspaper. They are to consider the evidence dispassionately based on the evidence presented. There are four questions the jury members have been asked to consider:
Did Sheridan commit adultery?
Was Sheridan a swinger?
Did Sheridan take part in orgies?
Did the teetotal politician drink champagne?
This case is unusual in Scots law in that it is a civil case before a jury. However, I think a jury is the best place for it. The collective wisdom of 11 may find its way through the morass of contradictory evidence. I noted yesterday
“Most of Sheridan’s parliamentary colleagues recall he admitted attending swingers clubs; but some of his parliamentary 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; … .”
If the jury believe the minute is true and the recollection of the majority of the Executive members is true then this means that Sheridan has perjured himself (as has one other MSP). Criminal proceedings would I think be inevitable. If they believe Sheridan this means that three MSPs have perjured themselves in promoting a political conspiracy. Again criminal proceedings would be likely. Either way, the SSP is finished. For the public one chunk of them are immediately characterised as liars.
“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; … .”
Although as Mr Jones QC pointed out in his summing up, Sheridan’s hairiness emerged for the first time during Gail Sheridan’s evidence. It did not feature previously in questioning. We don’t know if any of the female witnesses (Khan, Trolle or McGuire) thought Sheridan was hairy because they weren’t asked. As some of these witnesses were questioned by the legal team prior to their dismissal this was obviously not a key facet of the planned defence to the allegations. This can be contratsed with Archer’s libel case agaist the Star where the Monica Coghlan evidence as to the spotty back of the man she slept with was admitted by affidavit evidence. As it had beeen placed in evidence the questions to Mary Archer in the 2 minute re-examination asking her if her husband’s back had any distinguishing marks directly contradicted other evidence. The jury there had to assess the credibility of two competing witnesses. Here the hairiness or otherwise of Sheridan is not – in my view – something the jury can really take into account in reaching their decision.
“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 if Sheridan’s alibi is disbelieved then his father in law has perjured himself.
And any defeat for Sheridan potentially bankrupts him – which would bring an end to his political career – and destroys what is left of his political credibility.
The whole business is a mess. And if Sheridan loses I think that we can expect more in the press. While browsing I came across Kevin Williamson’s blog. Williamson is one of the great men of Scottish publishing. He was behind Rebel Inc – which published early extracts of Irvine Welsh and was behind two collections promoting young Scottish writing The Children of Albion Rovers and The Rovers Return (which included Alan Warner, Gordon Legge, James Meek, Welsh, and Laura Hird). I have long admired Williamson’s writing and the passion of his beliefs. When writing on the matter for Scottish Socialist Voice Williamson had an article spiked. He details the story here and the article can be read in full here. The article seems innocuous, suggesting that the allegations against Sheridan are an attempt to damage the cause of left wing independence supporting politics. To an observer this is not an unreasonable suggestion particularly given the location of the articles in Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers. The real interest though comes in the comments to Williamson’s post about the spiking. The comments by “Mary Whitewash” detail various allegations of harassment by Sheridan in the mid-1980s. They are shocking (for example this and this ) although their veracity cannot be confirmed. But if stories like this are circulating now if Sheridan loses there may be more and worse to come.