Former MSP Tommy Sheridan “couldn’t afford” to pull out of his legal proceedings against the News of the World, despite admitting to party colleagues allegations made in the newspaper about his private life were true, a court heard yesterday..
Allan Green, national secretary of the Scottish Socialist Party, said Sheridan had expressed concerns that he was “in too deep” to drop the action just three months before the libel case got under way at the Court of Session in Edinburgh in July 2006.
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Sheridan denies lying to the courts during his case, which followed the newspaper’s claims that he was an adulterer who visited swingers’ clubs.
He and his wife Gail, both 46 and from Glasgow, are accused of lying under oath during the successful defamation action.
Sheridan won £200,000 in damages after the newspaper printed the allegations about his private life.
But Green told the perjury trial at the High Court in Glasgow today he had met Sheridan three months before his action against the newspaper began.
They met, along with Colin Fox, at the Golden Pheasant pub in Lenzie, East Dunbartonshire, where Sheridan had spoken of his financial concerns.
Green said: “His concern was that he financially couldn’t afford to stop it because now he was in too deep.
“Colin Fox was trying to reassure Tommy that should he stop the libel, the party would help compensate for any financial loss.”
reen said he had met Sheridan to try to persuade him to give up the action, saying he was “snookered” by the existence of hand-written notes and typed minutes of the emergency meeting of the SSP’s executive following the publication of an article about a married MSP visiting a swingers’ club in Manchester.
The trial has previously heard Sheridan told the meeting he had been at the club and had blamed his visits on “a weakness he had”.
Several members of the executive were later cited by the News of the World in the defamation action and ordered to produce the minutes.
Green told the court they were unwilling to do so because they had agreed to keep them “confidential” after Sheridan announced his intention to fight the allegations in court.
He said he had gone to the meeting in Lenzie to try to persuade Sheridan to hand the minutes to the court himself – and drop the libel action.
But he said Sheridan was convinced the News of the World’s case was on the brink of collapse.
He said: “I was trying to tell Mr Sheridan that I felt the party was in an intolerable position and the minutes should be handed over.”
Green was the third person giving evidence to the perjury trial – and the third person to recall Sheridan had admitted twice visiting a swingers’ club in Manchester at an emergency meeting of the party’s executive on November 9 2004.
He recalled he had been “appalled” by Sheridan’s revelations and his intention to lie in court about the newspaper’s allegations.
Comparing Sheridan to disgraced Tory peer Lord (Jeffrey) Archer, Green said: “I was appalled on two counts.
“Firstly by Tommy’s reckless behaviour, the idea of any politician going to a swingers’ club appeared to be unbelievable. What troubled me even more was his declared intention to do the same as Tory politician Jeffrey Archer – to go to court and try and prove lies were the truth and the truth was lies.”
He said the meeting was left “shell shocked” by what Mr Sheridan had to say.
He said: “That he would actually go to court and try and prove the truth as lies – someone who has a reputation for honesty – it was shocking.”
Green said Sheridan was a man who had great talents and who he admired “tremendously” – and he would have backed him “100 per cent” had he not told the meeting he intended to try to cover up his misdemeanours.
Green said Mr Sheridan had been advised during the meeting that “the last thing he should do was risk his reputation by going to court to prove the truth was a lie”.
He said: “It was the first sign of the deterioration of Tommy’s principles. It was a meeting like no other and as Tommy was outlining his strategy, people were getting visibly more shocked and upset.
“That a man of Tommy’s standing in the Socialist movement would go down the same road as Jeffrey Archer.
“There were a number of people holding back the tears. It was a truly shocking experience.”
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 July 21, 2006.
He also denies a charge of attempting to persuade a witness to commit perjury shortly before the 23-day trial got under way.
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.