A secretary who took notes at an emergency Scottish Socialist Party meeting told a court today that former MSP Tommy Sheridan admitted he had twice visited a swingers’ club.
Barbara Jane Scott, who took the minutes at the meeting, said Sheridan said he had a “flaw” in his character and a “weakness”.
Sheridan and his wife Gail, both 46, are on trial at the High Court in Glasgow accused of perjury.
The couple, from Glasgow, are accused of lying under oath during Sheridan’s successful 2006 defamation action against the News of the World. They deny the allegations against them.
Sheridan, a former contestant on Celebrity Big Brother, won £200,000 in damages after the newspaper printed allegations about his private life.
Scott, 40, told the court that the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) called an emergency meeting of its executive committee after the newspaper article appeared.
The meeting took place on November 9 2004 at the SSP headquarters in Stanley Street, Glasgow.
Advocate Depute Alex Prentice QC asked her the purpose of the meeting.
She replied: “It was to discuss what was to happen about the fact there had been a newspaper story in the News of the World the previous weekend.”
She told the court that she remembered Sheridan was the first to speak at the meeting.
She said: “He talked about the story in the News of the World that had been about an unnamed married MSP that had gone to a swingers’ club in Manchester and he said that it was him and that he had gone to it, but that it had been not the dates that they said in the paper, that it was two different dates, and it was a flaw in his character, it was a weakness that he had, but it had only been those two times.”
Scott was then shown an A4 notebook, which she said contained the notes she had made at the meeting.
As well as herself, there were 20 members of the executive committee at the meeting, including Alan McCombes and Keith Baldassara.
Scott read from notes she made at the meeting of what Sheridan said.
She read out: “Two visits 1996, 2002, mistake, reckless etc. Publication of book by someone, two other MSPs named. For two weeks someone been trying to sell story to newspapers.
“Keith Baldassara and Alan McCombes last Monday. Asked for opportunity to fight this on own. Confident no proof of participation.”
Scott told the court that by this he meant there were no photos.
She read on: “Don’t think should have to be hostage to fortune, don’t deserve sympathy but do deserve opportunity to fight it.
“Some people may feel loss of confidence. It’s for comrades to decide. If by February don’t have confidence, will stand down.”
Scott said the executive committee was “terrified” Sheridan would be named in the press following the publication of the News of the World story.
She said she was asked to hand over her notes containing Sheridan’s admission to committee member Allan Green following the meeting for safe-keeping and they were stored at the party headquarters.
If Sheridan was exposed by the newspaper after denying the story, it would be damaging both to him and the party, Scott explained.
She said: “They were concerned he was going to be named – that there would be a follow-up story in the News of the World and they would name him.”
She added they feared it would seem “hypocritical” for Mr Sheridan, who had portrayed himself as a “family man”, to be exposed as someone who visited swingers’ clubs.
She said: “They were just terrified of leaks falling into the wrong hands.”
Scott said Sheridan was advised to apologise and resign as convenor of the party.
She read that McCombes had told Sheridan not to deny the allegations, saying it would be “political suicide” if he was exposed as a liar, saying: “People would forgive sexual misconduct, but not the leader of the party lying about it and refusing to take the consequences.”
She read that he first asked about the allegations in 2001, but they had been denied by Sheridan.
She said: “Allan asked Tommy about it, Tommy said it wasn’t true and Allan believed him.”
Scott, who was a witness in the 2006 libel trial, gave her notes to the police following the defamation hearing, saying she wanted to clear her name.
She also denied falsifying or including any misleading information in the note.
Prentice asked her: “Did you create false notes? Was there anything untrue or misleading in the hand-written or typed versions?”
She replied: “No. There certainly wasn’t.”
She told the court: “I took them and gave them to the police, because the libel trial had been won by Tommy, and that meant a crime had been committed, because he was lying.
“He said I had fabricated evidence and falsified notes. I felt it was a crime against me and a crime against my comrades, and I felt it was my duty to report it.
“I went to the police to clear my name, because I didn’t lie.
“I went and told them I had some evidence that proved there was perjury committed in the libel case.”
The first charge against the former MSP alleges that he tried to get Fox, who was to be called as a witness in the defamation action, to commit perjury.
The second charge against Sheridan alleges that he made various false statements when he was a witness in the defamation action on July 21 2006.
The charge alleges he did so knowing that the truth was that he had admitted at the SSP executive committee meeting to attending Cupid’s on two occasions.
It also alleges that 10 separate witnesses had not lied in evidence when they each gave evidence that they heard Sheridan admit to visiting Cupid’s during the meeting.
The charge further alleges the truth was that Sheridan had a sexual relationship with one woman between January 1994 and September 2002, and with another woman between January 2000 and December 2005.
Mrs Sheridan is accused of making false statements when she was a witness in the case on July 31 2006.
Part of the charge alleges that she said she could remember spending every weekend in November 2001 and November 2002 with her husband, when the truth was that she did not spend every weekend in November 2001 with him.
Sheridan has been one of Scotland’s most controversial and outspoken political figures for the last two decades.
In 2009 he took part in Celebrity Big Brother. He was the fifth celebrity to be evicted from the house.
The trial, before Lord Bracadale, continues.