Former MSP Tommy Sheridan asked a colleague to lie to a lawyer about minutes of a meeting at which he allegedly admitted visiting a swingers’ club, a court heard yesterday.
Colin Fox, 51, said Sheridan asked him to send a statement to his solicitor saying that the minutes of the meeting were false, and that people who said he had admitted going to the club were mistaken.
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Mr Fox refused, saying it was a “train wreck” strategy.
Sheridan and his wife Gail, both 46, are accused of lying under oath during his successful 2006 defamation action against the News of the World. They deny the allegations against them.
The politician won £200,000 in damages after the newspaper printed allegations about his private life.
One of the charges he faces is that he attempted to persuade Mr Fox to commit perjury shortly before the start of the 23-day legal action.
The Sheridans’ trial, now in its fourth day at the High Court in Glasgow, has been told that at a meeting of the Scottish Socialist Party
(SSP) executive committee, on November 9 2004, Sheridan admitted having twice visited a swingers’ club.
The SSP had not wanted to hand the minutes to the courts and one member was jailed for contempt of court over the issue, after which the party handed over the minutes.
Fox, a former Lothians MSP, said he and Sheridan met at the Beanscene cafe near the Scottish Parliament on June 18 2006, where Sheridan made the request.
“The minutes had already been handed in by this stage and Mr Sheridan asked me to send a statement to his solicitor saying that the minutes, in effect, were false, that he had not admitted to attending a swingers’ club and that those people who had said he had admitted to it were mistaken,” Fox told the court.
Asked by Advocate Depute Alex Prentice QC whether he was prepared to do what Sheridan asked, he said: “No. I told him it was a train wreck of a strategy. He was asking me to send a statement to his solicitor disowning my party, disowning those minutes. I told him I was not prepared to do it.”
Fox said that on May 12 2006 he and party colleague Allan Green met Sheridan at the Golden Pheasant pub in Lenzie and tried to persuade him to drop the action against the News of the World.
They were not successful.
The indictment against the Sheridans contains three charges in total, two of which are broken down into a number of sub-sections.
Sheridan denies lying to the courts during his case, which followed the newspaper’s claims that he was an adulterer who had visited a swingers’
It is alleged he made false statements as a witness in the defamation action on July 21 2006.
He also denies a charge of attempting to persuade a witness to commit perjury shortly before the 23-day legal action got under way.
Gail Sheridan denies making false statements on July 31 2006 after being sworn in as a witness in the civil jury trial at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
The trial was played video footage said to have been filmed by George McNeilage in the days after an emergency meeting of the SSP executive about the revelations in the News of the World.
In the video shown to the jury, Sheridan was allegedly talking about going into the meeting and addressing its membership.
The News of the World obtained the video after Mr Sheridan’s successful libel action.
Sheridan was identified in the video by Fox, his friend of 30 years.
Fox said he was “disappointed” by the emergence of the video, filmed by Mr McNeilage, who was best man at Sheridan’s wedding.
A man’s voice in the video can be heard to say: “They want me to come to a meeting that night to explain myself and this is where I make the big mistake. A f****** huge mistake. A humongous mistake.
“I got to the meeting, there’s 19 people sitting around a fucking circle, sitting on desks, sitting on chairs. The atmosphere you cut with a fucking knife, man.
“I then make the biggest mistake of my life by confessing something in front of 19 fuckers. What am I doing confessing to these c****?”
Fox told the court: “That executive committee of November 9, 2004 was the SSP’s 9/11. It was when our totem came crashing down. We would remember that meeting for the rest of our lives.”
The court was told that as well as visiting the swingers’ club, Mr Sheridan had an affair with a member of the SSP, Katrine Trolle.
Duncan Rowan, the SSP’s former regional organiser for the north-east of Scotland, told the court he informed the News of the World about the affair to try to protect another woman, Fiona McGuire, who the newspaper thought was having an affair with Mr Sheridan.
Rowan, 37, who resigned from the party and left Scotland after going to the newspaper, said Ms McGuire tried to kill herself after being approached by the newspaper in connection with allegations of a “four in a bed” orgy with Sheridan.
He said he went to the newspaper the day after the emergency meeting because he blamed himself for the “fragile” woman’s suicide attempt, and because he had been told by Ms Trolle that she had been having an affair with Sheridan.
He said: “I had to do something to recover the situation. It was because Katrine had said to me on previous occasions that she was having an affair with Tommy Sheridan.
“I believed they had the wrong person, I believed I knew who the right person in the story was.”
Rowan said he was wracked with guilt after the article was published and told the court he had left Scotland because he “wanted to get away from the mess”.
Sheridan stared straight ahead of him while the evidence against him was given to the court today, with his wife sitting close by him.