Crown drops further Sheridan charges

Tommy Sheridan was acquitted yesterday of trying to persuade a witness to commit perjury shortly before his defamation case.

Prosecuting advocate depute Alex Prentice QC withdrew the charge at the close of the Crown case yesterday afternoon.

The Crown also dropped several other allegations against Sheridan and his wife Gail, who are on trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

The couple, both 46, deny lying under oath during his successful defamation action against the News of the World newspaper in 2006.

The action followed the newspaper’s claims that former Socialist MSP Sheridan was an adulterer who visited swingers’ clubs.

The Crown dropped the charge that in June 2006 Sheridan tried to persuade his former SSP colleague Colin Fox to commit perjury.

Prentice said: “I withdraw the charge because the evidence comes from one source only, Colin Fox.

“I should make it clear that the withdrawal of the charge is not a reflection on the credibility of Mr Fox.”

The couple now face one charge each, accusing them of lying under oath at the 2006 libel action.

The indictment is divided into a number of subsections, ten of which were withdrawn today.

In Sheridan’s case, the deleted subsections related to a conversation about a night of “madness” at a Glasgow hotel.

It had been alleged that Sheridan lied when he told the Court of Session in Edinburgh on June 21 2006 that no conversation took place between him and Keith Baldassara during which he said he was present at “madness” in a Glasgow hotel, but did not participate.

The Crown also withdrew an allegation that Mrs Sheridan lied when she told the Court of Session on July 31 2006 that she saw Sheridan phoning directory inquiries and asking for the number of Cupid’s health club, and that her aunt arrived in Scotland from the US on June 14 2002.

The other allegation dropped was that she lied when she told the court she saw Katrine Trolle at the Scottish Socialist Party Conference in Perth in 2005.

The court also heard Mrs Sheridan was likened to a terrorist by police when they interviewed her in February 2008 in Edinburgh.

Her rosary beads were also removed two hours into the interview with Detective Sergeant Stuart Harkness, of Lothian and Borders Police.

Sheridan told the court that his wife had exercised her right to remain silent during the interview on the advice of her QC Paul McBride.

Cross-examining Harkness, who was deputy senior investigating officer on the team investigating the alleged perjury, Sheridan asked him to read from his transcript of the interview in which he made the comparison.

The police officer read: “Gail, I must ask you at this time who has schooled you to sit and focus at one point on the wall because I’ve interviewed people arrested under the terrorist act and that’s exactly the kind of activity I’ve experienced from them.”

Sheridan said: “You’ve just in the course of that interview accused her of being a trained terrorist.”

Harkness replied: “I’ve just asked her where she learned that technique because it’s so hard to do.”

Sheridan asked: “That was just pure and utter intimidation by you?”

The police officer replied: “No.”

The defendant also asked why his wife’s rosary beads were removed from her two hours into the five-hour interview.

Harkness said it was because she appeared to be focusing on them rather than on items that were being shown to her, and that they were removed out of fairness to her.

Sheridan accused the detective of having a “vendetta” against him.

He said: “Crown witness Katrine Trolle is treated to coffee and muffins by your officer.

‘My wife is subjected to removal of her rosary beads, detention for five hours and treated as a terrorist.”

He went on: “The truth is what you did is conduct a vendetta against me, my family and my friends.”

Sheridan also touched on the search of his Glasgow home carried out by police officers in December 2007.

He said the search had left a two-year-old child “upset” and asked why the clothes drawer of a two-year-old was searched.

Harkness replied: “There may well be documentation in that drawer. People go to strange lengths to hide things.”

Sheridan also inquired why the “tiny pockets of a two-year-old” were turned out.

The policeman answered: “Items can be hidden. It’s amazing where you find things in searches.”

The court heard that a child’s Christmas dress and a set of Rudolph The Reindeer antlers were removed from the house during the search.

Harkness said they were taken by mistake and were quickly returned.

The court also heard there was an investigation into media leaks from the police inquiry, conducted by the Lothian and Borders Police professional standards unit.

Sheridan asked: “Were you aware which of your officers were force insiders for the News of the World?”

Harkness said: “As far as I know we got a clean bill of health.”

Earlier yesterday another officer denied police decided they should “go after” Tommy and Gail Sheridan.

Detective Sergeant Jerrold Fraser, 51, was part of a team set up in autumn 2006 to investigate allegations of perjury by comparing evidence from the trial with fresh statements, and assessing new evidence.

Cross-examining Fraser, Sheridan said: “The inquiry started off with the conclusion that they should go after Tommy Sheridan and Gail Sheridan.”

Fraser said: “No.”

Sheridan suggested “inconsistencies” about information from former News of the World Scottish news editor Douglas Wight and Sheridan’s former SSP colleagues Colin Fox and Allan Green were “ignored”.

He added: “It was pre-determined wasn’t it?”

The police officer said: “No.”

Sheridan won £200,000 in damages after the newspapers printed allegations about his private life.

The indictment against the Sheridans now contains two charges.

It is alleged Sheridan made false statements as a witness in the defamation action of July 21, 2006.

Mrs Sheridan denies making false statements on July 31, 2006, after being sworn in as a witness in the civil jury trial.

The trial before Lord Bracadale continues later today.

On Thursday last week, prosecutors also dropped several allegations made against the Sheridans.

The Crown decided not to pursue Sheridan over two allegations of lying under oath during the successful defamation action in 2006. Two allegations of perjury were dropped against his wife Gail.

A total of eight subsections on the indictment were deleted at the High Court in Glasgow.

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