Sheridan's illness causes perjury trial adjournment

The perjury trial of former MSP Tommy Sheridan was yesterday adjourned until Friday after the jury was told the politician was too unwell to attend court.

Sheridan, who is representing himself in the case, and his wife Gail, both 46, are on trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

The couple, from Glasgow, are accused of lying under oath during Sheridan`s 2006 libel action against the News of the World, in which he won damages of £200,000 over allegations he was an adulterer who visited swingers’ clubs. They both deny the allegations.

Yesterday, the jurors entered the court just after 10am and were told Sheridan was unwell.

The trial was adjourned without any new evidence being heard as judge, Lord Bracadale, said Sheridan had seen a doctor on Monday afternoon who had certified him as unfit to attend court.

“The doctor will review the situation on Thursday,” Lord Bracadale said.

The trial, which started on October 4, was adjourned until 10am on Friday.

On Monday, the court heard that the man who sold The News of the World a tape alleged to show Tommy Sheridan confessing to visiting a swingers’ club was given £1,500 by the newspaper to “go away” after the matter became public.

George McNeilage, 46, told the perjury trial he was paid the money by the News of The World to avoid media attention by fleeing to Flamingo Land, North Yorkshire.

He had earlier been offered £200,000 by the Sunday newspaper for the video footage he secretly filmed of the former Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) leader in November 2004.

McNeilage, one of the party’s founding members, said he had offered the paper the tape after Sheridan won his defamation action against the title and denounced SSP figures as “scabs”.

Giving evidence for a second day on Monday, McNeilage said he did not want journalists outside his home once details of the video were known.

Sheridan, who is carrying out his own defence, showed the witness a document titled “Sheridan costs” with the sum of £1,500.00 next to the listing “private and confidential cash payment”.

In the margin, a handwritten name could be seen to read George McNeilage, Sheridan said.

He asked the witness: “Why did you demand £1,500 to disappear?”

McNeilage said: “Because I didn’t want the press around my home and that.”

Mentioning his children, the witness said: “I took them away to a damp and dreary Flamingo Land for a week. They offered the money for me to go away and I said ‘aye, I wouldn’t mind’.”

McNeilage said he received the cash from the political editor of the News of the World.

Asked if he received any other cash payments, he replied: “Not that I can remember.”

On the tape, a man identified by McNeilage as Sheridan can be heard denouncing SSP members and describing Katrine Trolle, who claimed in court to have had a four-year affair with Sheridan, as a “diamond” who would “never admit to anything”.

The man is heard to say: “If I am presented with incontrovertible evidence, I’ll put my hands up and I’ll say I’m sorry and I’ll walk away.”

The trial previously heard that McNeilage asked for £250,000 for the tape – the sum that Sheridan was awarded following the defamation action plus £50,000 to pay for a community centre in Pollok, Glasgow.

Sheridan asked if McNeilage had ever been told that an agreement had been reached for £250,000 and then suggested that £50,000 was used “to pay off others”, which the witness said was not true.

Sheridan also asked McNeilage if he had met (then editor of the News of the World) Andy Coulson during the negotiations about the tape.

The witness said it was “possible” Coulson had been present at a meeting he had had with others, whom he had assumed were all lawyers, but that he “didn’t know” if he was there.

Sheridan asked him: “Were you ever told at any time that the two top men from Wapping were coming up to Glasgow to sign your cheque?” to which McNeilage replied: “No, it’s absurd.”

McNeilage told the court he taped over the final part of the conversation on the tape because it contained “personal stuff” and mentioned other people.

He said: “There was no need for it to be on it, that’s why it was taped over.”

Sheridan said: “The tape you sold to the News of the World was concocted and tampered with, wasn’t it?”

McNeilage said: “That’s not true.”

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