Former MSP Tommy Sheridan was yesterday accused of “throwing red herrings about” and putting up “smokescreens” during his perjury trial.
The politician was also accused of “throwing muck about the courtroom” by a former friend and long-time Socialist colleague as he defends himself against allegations he lied in court in a defamation action he brought against a tabloid newspaper four years ago.
Ritchie Venton, 57, was a founding member of the Scottish Socialist Party along with Sheridan, and the two fought “shoulder to shoulder” for the socialist cause.
But at the High Court in Glasgow he told his former friend he was left “heartbroken” by the chain of events that led to Sheridan’s decision to take the News of the World to court following the publication of allegations about his private life.
Sheridan and his wife Gail, both 46, are accused of lying under oath during his successful defamation action against the newspaper in 2006.
Sheridan denies lying to the courts during the trial, which followed the tabloid’s claims that he was an adulterer who visited swingers’ clubs.
He was awarded £200,000 in damages after the newspaper printed the allegations.
Venton was the twelfth member of the executive committee of the SSP to tell the trial, before Lord Bracadale, that Sheridan admitted going to Cupid’s club in Manchester on two occasions, but that he intended to deny the allegations because the newspaper had no proof he was there.
He said he told an emergency meeting of the party’s top brass on 9 November, 2004 he went to the club for “cheap thrills”, but could “destroy” the News of the World’s sex columnist Anvar Khan, with whom he allegedly visited the club, as a witness.
Recalling the meeting, Venton said: “Tommy explained that he was the unnamed MSP that had been reported in the News of the World.
“He had been to this Cupid’s club on a couple of occasions. It was retrospectively reckless and foolish.
“It was heartbreaking to think that out of absolutely mind-boggling recklessness to go to a place like that with a News of the World journalist – a self-described sex columnist I thought was an act of utter madness.
“I was heartbroken, gob-smacked and close to tears.”
The advocate depute, Alex Prentice QC, asked him if the meeting had been a “kangaroo court”.
He replied: “There was not a hint of kangaroos or any other marsupials in sight.”
During his cross-examination Sheridan suggested Venton was part of “a plot to undermine me politically”, and accused him of lying in his evidence.
Venton replied that Sheridan’s tactic was “to throw muck about the courtroom and hope some sticks”.
He said:” I have nothing to be ashamed of, I’m not lying.
“I know this court is near a fish market, but some of the red herrings you’re throwing about are overpowering.
“What you have attempted to do today – but more fully at the previous trial – is sway the jury with your oratory and your charm and persuasiveness.”
He said Sheridan’s persuasive ability was a “curse” when used for the “wrong things”.
“One of the things you said was, ‘It’s not just the facts that are important. It’s the impression’.”.
Venton said he gave evidence “under protest” in 2006, adding: “I did limit what I said. I saw myself not as a witness, but a hostage”.
He said he had wanted “to save you from a crucifixion”, saying: “I was trying not to give evidence that would damage you.”
He told the court he was “absolutely appalled” by what he had been accused of by Sheridan.
He said: “I have gained nothing out of being honest. I’m appalled at the accusation, because I grew up to be honest.”
The trial also heard yesterday from Ralph Barnett and Ruth Adamson, who told the court Sheridan visited Adamson’s flat during the time it is claimed he was having an affair with her flatmate.
Katrine Trolle, who lived with Adamson in Dundee, has previously told the trial she had sex with Sheridan on several occasions between 2000 and 2004, including at her own home in Dundee, and at his house in Glasgow.
Both Barnett and Adamson said they saw Sheridan come into the flat and go upstairs with Trolle.
During his 2006 action against the News of the World Sheridan said he had not had a sexual relationship with Trolle and he had never stayed at her home in Kingennie Court in Dundee.
Adamson, 30, said the visit took place in late 2004.
She said: “He came round to the house one night. We were introduced, shook hands, there was brief chit chat, then Katrine and himself went upstairs. It was only the one time I saw him.”
The indictment against the Sheridans contains three charges in total, two of which are broken down into subsections.
It is alleged he made false statements as a witness in the defamation action of 21 July, 2006.
He also denies a charge of attempting to persuade a witness to commit perjury shortly before the 23-day trial got under way.
Gail Sheridan denies making false statements on 31 July, 2006, after being sworn in as a witness in the civil jury trial.
The trial was adjourned until later today.