NOTW owner's bid to overturn £200k payout for defaming politician is rejected by judges

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Judges have rejected an appeal by the owner of the now-defunct News Of The World to set aside former MSP Tommy Sheridan’s defamation victory a decade ago.

Mr Sheridan won the high-profile case against the newspaper after it printed allegations about the then-Socialist MSP’s sex life, which included claims he visited a swingers’ club.

The paper was ordered to pay £200,000 in damages, but weeks later a police investigation was launched into allegations of perjury and Mr Sheridan was charged.

He was jailed after being found guilty in December 2010 of lying under oath during the successful defamation action, and was freed from prison after serving just over a year of his sentence.

Mr Sheridan has always denied the allegations and launched an unsuccessful attempt to appeal against his conviction.

The case returned to the courts in May as News Group Newspapers (NGN) wanted to have the 2006 civil jury verdict set aside, but judges at the Court of Session in Edinburgh has now refused the application.

A written summary of opinion issued by Lady Paton, Lord Drummond Young and Lord McGhie said the reasoning of the defamation trial jury “was not undermined by the perjury conviction”.

The judgement read: “It was noted that the verdict of a civil jury should be treated with considerable respect. Current social standards were very much a jury question.

“The jurors had heard and seen all the witnesses and the written evidence, and were the judges of the facts, deciding questions of credibility and reliability.

“The jurors would apply the directions in law given by the trial judge. Those directions included an instruction that if the jury found that some (but not all) of the allegations made against Mr Sheridan were proved, they still had to assess whether the unproved and unsubstantiated allegations materially injured Mr Sheridan’s reputation.

“Thus it was open to the jury to disbelieve some of Mr Sheridan’s evidence, to find certain evidence led on behalf of NGN established, yet still to conclude that Mr Sheridan had been defamed.

“Several lines or routes of reasoning had been open to the civil jury, at least one of which was not undermined by the perjury conviction or by the three new items relied upon by NGN.

“The court could not confidently assert that the jury had not adopted that particular route. Accordingly, even taking into account all the matters founded upon by NGN, the court was unable to conclude that NGN had demonstrated that a new trial was ‘essential to the justice of the cause’.

“In that context, the court felt that certain material (unproved), which seemed to demonstrate unacceptable and possibly illegal conduct on the part of NGN’s staff, should not be ignored.

“In the result, the civil jury’s verdict and assessment of damages remain unaltered.”

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