I mentioned in my post ‘The Most Dangerous Man In The World – The Scottish Play’ that two of my friends were at Stirling University with Jack McConnell, who later became First Minister of Scotland. Thee was someone else at Stirling with my friends who also became a big figure in Scottish politics – Tommy Sheridan.
Tommy Sheridan joined Militant in about 1983 whilst at Stirling University and became Scotland’s highest profile member of Militant. He was expelled from the Labour Party in 1989 and formed Scottish Militant Labour. By 1993 Scottish Militant Labour had six Councillors in Glasgow, including Tommy Sheridan. In 1996 Sheridan and others formed the Scottish Socialist Alliance which in 1998 evolved into the Scottish Socialist Party. In 1999 Tommy Sheridan was elected to the Scottish Parliament as a Glasgow MSP and was re-elected in 2003.
Tommy Sheridan had a cult following – he led a campaign against the Community Charge in Scotland, was active in the protests at the Faslane Naval Base where the nuclear fleet is held and he went to prison in the course of his activism. Tommy Sheridan was remarkably effective and acquired some powerful enemies. He was really hated by everyone on the right but also by huge swathes of those on the left as well. Obviously Sheridan was loathed and feared by the Scottish (and the rest of the) Labour Party, but he also had enemies within the hard left as a result of factionalism and infighting.
Sheridan is undoubtedly a very tough politician, but he came unstuck as a result of a bizarre series of almost unfathomable events after he took on Rupert Murdoch and the News of the World.
In July 2006 Tommy Sheridan sued the News of the World at the Court of Session in Edinburgh for defamation after they published allegations that he frequented a swingers club in Manchester – Cupid’s – where they alleged that he partook of champagne, cocaine and group sex. In Aug 2006 Tommy won the case and was awarded £200k in damages – which is when his problems really began.
The News of the World immediately stated that it would appeal.
Two days after Sheridan won his case a letter was published in the Scottish Socialist Voice signed by six leading members of the SSP (Scottish Socialist Party) alleging that Tommy Sheridan had admitted at an SSP Executive Committee meeting to attending Cupids.
There was some indications that Sheridan was going to be in for a rough ride anyway when the day after his victory over Murdoch the Daily Mail published a florid article with a reference in the headline to ‘ranting Sheridan’.
Allegations and counter-allegations flew. People began emerging from the woodwork claiming that Tommy Sheridan had perjured himself during the trial – his wife Gail, who hosted a radio show, came under fierce attack from the media and her image as a loyal wife was questioned. There was much hostility towards Sheridan because of his cross-examination of one woman, Kristine Trolle, at the News of the World defamation trial. Trolle had claimed that she had actually gone to Cupid’s in the company of Sheridan.
Sheridan and his supporters were subsequently to claim that he was under massive attack from News International as pay-back for daring to win a case against Murdoch.
It was clear that people had been prepared to lie on oath in the wake of a meeting of the Executive Committee of the SSP on 9 Nov 2004. Sheridan stepped down as convenor of the SSP after this meeting but his resignation was steeped in controversy. It transpired that the SSP’s Executive Committee had forced Sheridan to resign. Stories had appeared in the media about a then unnamed MSP – Sheridan confirmed at the meeting that the stories were about him and stated that he would take legal action against the newspaper concerned. After Sheridan resigned, the News of the World named him as the MSP in the stories.
There are differing accounts of what happened at the Executive Committee meeting on 9 Nov 2004. Eleven members at the meeting stated that Sheridan admitted at the meeting that he had visited Cupid’s. Three other members of the Executive Committee maintained that he had made no such admission.
What is agreed was that Sheridan later had a row with the SSP and called them ‘scabs’ because they would not support him in his proposed action against Murdoch.
The minutes of the 9 Nov 2004 meeting contained a record of Sheridan admitting that he had attended Cupid’s. In 2006 the News of the World subpoenaed the SSP to force them to hand over the minutes. Alan McCombes of the SSP refused to hand them over and in May 2006 was imprisoned by judge Lady Anne Smith. Other members of the SSP then handed the minutes over in order to have McCombes released from prison. Sheridan claimed that the minutes weren’t accurate.
At the SSP Conference in March 2006, Sheridan had been elected as the Party Co-Chair. However he left the SSP in August 2006 declaring that the ‘mother of all stitch ups’ had occurred, involving the leadership of the SSP, MI5 and News International. In Sept 2006 Sheridan launched another party, Solidarity, with MSP Rosemary Byrne, his former colleague from the SSP. Byrne had been one of those who claimed that Sheridan did not admit to attending Cupids at the Executive Committee meeting on 9 Nov 2004.
In Aug 2006 the Lothian and Borders Police had received two complaints of perjury – one from the former Conservative MSP Brian Monteith and another allegedly from the SSP’s minutes secretary. The News of the World’s appeal against the damages awarded to Sheridan was postponed until the proscurator fiscal announced the outcome of the perjury probe.
In Oct 2006 the Lothian and Borders Police started a criminal investigation. In the same month the BBC reported that the Grampian Police were investigating a death threat that had been sent by post to one of the witnesses who had appeared at the News of the World trial.
The News of the World also pitched in during Oct 2006. They published a video recording which they claimed was Tommy Sheridan admitting that he had visited Cupid’s. The recording had been made by SSP member George McNeillage using a hidden camera in his home after he had invited Sheridan there. Tommy Sheridan could not be clearly seen on the tape at any point and the News of the World was unable to produce any images of his face. Sheridan maintained that the video was a fake and that the recording of his voice had been spliced with clips of someone else. News of the World produced four ‘experts’ who maintained that the voice was that of Tommy Sheridan alone. In an interview with the BBC, forensic speech specialist Peter French emphasised that it can never be conclusively said that such a recording can identify someone and that such material should never be used to bring a criminal trial.
In March 2007 the Lothian and Borders Police examined a bugging device found in Sheridan’s car and stated that it was ‘not the kind used by the British security services’.
Tommy Sheridan believed that MI5, somebody in the SSP and Murdoch had conspired in order to undermine his campaign for an independent socialist Scotland.
In May 2007 staff of Cupid’s told the police that they had been bribed not to co-operate with the inquiry.
In Dec 2007 Sheridan was charged with perjury along with six of his relatives and colleagues. Interestingly in the end the only person who was actually put on trial was Tommy Sheridan himself – the charges against everyone else melted away, although the charges against Gail Sheridan weren’t withdrawn until Tommy’s trial at the High Court in Glasgow in Oct 2010.
In Dec 2010 Tommy Sheridan was convicted of perjury and was sentenced to three years imprisonment. Tommy Sheridan left prison in Jan 2012 under the automatic early release scheme. In June 2016 he resigned as co-convenor of Solidarity to dedicate his time to fighting Murdoch, whom Sheridan claims framed him.
I followed the Tommy Sheridan case in the press at the time. Sheridan won his defamation case against Murdoch before the scandal involving phone hacking and serious criminality on the part of News International occurred. What I remembered after the allegations that Sheridan had perjured himself emerged was the acres of newsprint from right across the political spectrum baying for Sheridan’s blood. Sheridan had no support from any corner in the mainstream media – even the dear old Guardian put the boot in. But they would – the Guardian is not as radical as it likes to think that it is.
No-one seemed to be taking one major factor into account as the allegations that Sheridan was Satan incarnate flew – Sheridan had taken on MURDOCH. No-one dared take on Murdoch – the first thing that Blair did when he put his plans for electoral success into action was to make friends with Murdoch. It was common knowledge that Murdoch’s right hand woman Rebekah Wade/Brooks felt able to summon Gov’t Ministers, spout simplistic rubbish in their direction and expect to see her words translated into Gov’t policy. It was clear that no-one was safe from Rebekah and Murdoch long before the phone hacking scandal became public. Sara Payne, the mother of Sarah Payne, a little girl who was murdered by a paedophile in 2000, was befriended by Rebekah and the murder of Sara formed the basis of a News of the World ‘campaign’ concerning public access to registers of paedophiles locations, Sarah’s Law. As a gesture of friendship Rebekah gave Sara Payne a telephone on which she could ring Rebekah for a bit of support because caring sharing Rebekah knew what a bad time Sara Payne was having. There is much evidence that Sara Payne was led by the nose by Rebekah. I seem to remember reading in Private Eye that as the questions about the conduct of News International began gathering steam, Sara was reminded by Rebekah of how much the News of the World had ‘helped’ her. In July 2011 it was revealed that Sara’s mobile had been targeted by the News of the World for hacking.
Not that Rebekah was ever the most sensitive of flowers. Shortly after Rebekah was appointed as Editor of the Sun – the first female editor! – in 2003, Frank Bruno had the misfortune to develop serious mental health problems and was sectioned. The Sun ran the headline ‘Bonkers Bruno Locked Up’. Public outrage followed and even Rebekah realised that this was not good PR because later editions of the paper ran the equally enlightened headline ‘Sad Bruno In Mental Home’.
I am delighted to report that after her faux pas, Rebekah studied at the knee of the finest. The day after telling the world that Bonkers/Sad Bruno had been locked up/confined to a mental home, Rebekah published a 600 word response from this blog’s old friend, concealer of and colluder with paedophiles and serial bedfellow of a number of paedophiles’ friends, Marjorie Wallace, the Chief Executive of SANE (see post ‘One Dangerous Fucker’) – a charity that has robustly campaigned for bonkers people to be locked up. Since then the Sun has adopted a style guide concerning the coverage of mental health stories prepared by the paedophiles’ friends at SANE. Rebekah and her husband spent a day with Marjorie and made donations to SANE.
I discovered something else whilst I was researching for this post – that Tommy Sheridan and Rosemary Byrne had fallen out with the NUJ back in 2006, over the funding of some Parliamentary journos.
I have no idea whether Tommy Sheridan enjoyed himself at Cupids or not and I wouldn’t be in the least bit bothered if he did – the salient issue is whether he lied in Court about this. What has been demonstrated since Tommy Sheridan was jailed is that News International would do anything, anything at all, to achieve their ends and that a lot of craven spineless dickwits from across the political spectrum were happy to do their bidding. News International employees hacked phones, lied, bugged people, misrepresented themselves, bribed people, smeared people and paid public servants for stories – it certainly would not have been beyond their ken to have set Tommy Sheridan up. People are in general rather weak and a lot of people are very easily bought off – my own battle with a bunch of Top Doctors who facilitated a paedophile gang has made that very clear to me and I haven’t even won a defamation action against Murdoch.
Tommy Sheridan came under savage attack in both the Guardian and the left wing press for cross-examining Katrine Trolle in Court over her ‘sexual history’ – the story was reported as though Sheridan was a rapist who had cross-examined his own victim. Katrine Trolle had maintained that she had accompanied Sheridan to Cupid’s where they had participated in group sex. Sheridan maintained that this had not happened – it was Katrine Trolle’s evidence that News International were relying upon to win the case against Sheridan. Sheridan defended himself in Court – he was simply alleging that he had not had group sex at Cupid’s with Trolle and others. If Sheridan was telling the truth his only option was to cross-examine Trolle. This was not made clear in the vitriol that was poured upon Sheridan’s head for ‘traducing a female socialist’s character’.
One witness at Sheridan’s 2010 trial for perjury was Andy Coulson, the former News of the World Editor and at the time of the trial David Cameron’s Head of Communications at No 10. Coulson lied on oath during Sheridan’s trial.
Coulson was later charged with criminal offences in a case unrelated to Sheridan’s trial for perjury as a result of the police investigation into the News of the World phone hacking scandal and related matters
Sheridan’s leave to appeal against his conviction was rejected by the High Court in June 2011.
In 2015 Andy Coulson was charged with perjury as a result of lying under oath at Tommy Sheridan’s 2010 trial. Lord David Burns, sitting at the High Court in Edinburgh, acquitted Coulson although he accepted that Coulson had lied under oath. Lord Burns’s rationale was that the lies that Coulson had told at Sheridan’s trial were ‘not relevant’ to the case, that ‘not every lie amounts to perjury’ and that the ‘false evidence alleged in this indictment was not relevant evidence’. The jury at Coulson’s trial were not told that Coulson had already served seven months in prison after having being found guilty at the Old Bailey of conspiracy to hack phones when he was Editor of the News of the World.
Prior to being admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1977, David Burns worked as a legal assistant in Rochester, New York and San Francisco. In 1998 Burns was appointed the Deputy Commissioner for Social Security. Burns was the defence Counsel in the 2000-02 Lockerbie case. Burns was appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court in July 2012.
Coulson’s defence advocate was Murdo MacLeod QC. In 2015 Murdo also successfully defended Dr Yousi Badri, a Top Doctor charged with Middle East related terrorist offences.
Coulson’s acquittal was considered to be a ‘severe blow’ to Police Scotland and senior prosecutors in Edinburgh. The charges against Coulson were part of Operation Rubicon into allegations of hacking, bugging and Data Protection Act breaches by journalists employed by News International, which was launched in July 2011 after Murdoch closed the News of the World. Rubicon cost nearly £1 million in terms of police salaries and involved 23 hacking victims in Scotland. Bob Bird, the former Editor of the News of the World Scottish edition was charged, as was Doug White, a news executive with News of the World in Glasgow as well as Gill Smith, the news editor at the Scottish Sun. Charges against these three included perverting the course of justice. The Crown Office prosecutors dropped all the cases. The acquittal of Andy Coulson resulted in the collapse of Operation Rubicon.
After Coulson was acquitted, his friend Gary Farrow a PR consultant gave a few comments to the press regarding the ‘hell’ that Coulson had been through and how he was a lovely bloke who just wanted to get home to his family. Gary Farrow is an entertainment PR and his recent clients include Jeremy Clarkson, Elton John and Sharon Osbourne. His former clients include Jonathan Ross, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, George Michael, David Bowie, Bob Geldof and Paula Yates. Gary entered the world of pop music/showbiz in the mid-70s. He’ll have been one of the many who didn’t know about Jimmy Savile.
In Aug 2016 Murdoch’s company lost their appeal against the £200k that Sheridan was awarded for defamation.
So Tommy Sheridan was defamed and Andy Coulson lied on oath. In the wake of the mountains of conflicting evidence that was presented by the numerous people involved in the Tommy Sheridan saga – conflicting evidence which by definition meant that a number of people had perjured themselves – the only person who was found guilty and went to prison was Tommy Sheridan.
As for Murdoch’s right hand woman throughout much of the action, Rebekah Brooks – Murdoch paid her £10.8 million pounds to leave News International after the phone hacking and associated criminality scandal. At one point Rebekah took advice from her friend Tony Blair. In Sept 2015 Rebekah returned as CEO of News UK, formerly known as News International.
Tommy Sheridan has called for the Scottish Gov’t to hold an Public Inquiry into the whole sorry business.
Footnote: One of the people who was arrested and charged for perjury along with Sheridan but who had the charges against her dropped was Rosemary Byrne MSP. Byrne is a former teacher and trade union activist and for several years was President of Irvine Trades Council. There was some years ago a child abuse scandal in Ayrshire. Irvine is in Ayrshire and when people working with children are accused of child abuse they seek protection from their union – and they get it. In 2016 Byrne resigned from Solidarity.