I realised that, over the last few weeks, I have posted the odd piece about the trial of Tommy Sheridan and the News of the World related fallout.
I thought it would help my readers (both of them) if I listed the posts, with links, and a brief comment on each.
This story is a long way from ended, and I will update this post as necessary.
For the full story of the trial of Tommy Sheridan, I can do no better than to recommend the excellent Sheridan Trial Blog, compiled by James Doleman. James was able to give far more detailed coverage than any mainstream media outlets, and reported what took place in court without having his personal views, whatever they might have been, affect his narrative of the case.
James has contributed further work to the ever expanding Internet store of Sheridanalia at his new site.
I can also recommend heartily the Lallands Peat Worrier who has been following the case for far longer than I have, and whose insights are always thought provoking, assiduously researched and elegantly drafted.
Finally Love and Garbage has been the source of much knowledge, insight and humour regarding the long process which has brought us to where we are, and he too I would commend to you.
The Tommy Sheridan saga has proceeded now for many years. From the heights of the election of the Scottish Socialist Party MSP’s, led by Tommy Sheridan, to Holyrood, to the depths of him being led away to serve his prison sentence for perjury.
Whilst the issue was always very prominent in Scotland, wider UK interest was provoked by the scandalous revelations concerning the News of the World, which led to its closure.
This first piece addressed the evidence of DCS Phil Williams of the Metropolitan Police, who gave the High Court evidence about Operation Caryatid, which resulted in the convictions of Glenn Mulcaire and Clive Goodman. DCS Williams’ evidence regarding the investigation, and what the police did, and more particularly did not, do seems even more concerning than it did at the time I write about it. Quite how the police managed to investigate so few people, in light of what we now know of what there was by way of evidence, remains baffling.
The testimony of former Metropolitan Police officers like Andy Hayman and John Yates before the Home Affairs Select Committee did not answer the questions as to why the initial investigation seemed so ham-fisted.
Frankly DCS Williams’ evidence had little to do with the Sheridan trial, and falls within the wide category of evidence which, if Mr Sheridan had been represented, would not have been permitted by the judge as being irrelevant.
I followed up with a “triple-decker”. This was prompted by speculation about possible perjury investigations into certain witnesses in Tommy Sheridan’s trial, and by implication these were going to be the News of the World witnesses, Andy Coulson, Douglas Wight and Bob Bird. All of the parties in connection with whom it is understood there is the ongoing investigation made clear I court that they were telling the truth and, I am sure, would vigorously deny any such allegations.
I thought it helpful to go through, in as much detail as I could, the testimony of the witnesses and see whether or not there might be cases against any or all of them for perjury.
I started with Mr Coulson. As I explained in this post, and further later, in my view, I thought it unlikely that Mr Coulson would ever face a perjury charge in connection with his evidence in this case.
One of the various reasons for this is that Mr Sheridan was not able to question witnesses with the forensic specificity which would have pinned down the witnesses such as Mr Coulson with answers which could be assessed clearly and where there was no dubiety as to what the witness was saying and meaning.
As with Mr Coulson, I did not foresee any real likelihood that Mr Wight would face perjury charges either.
As regards Mr Bird, he seemed, from what had been made public, to be in greatest danger of investigation in connection with the maters raised. This seemed primarily to relate to his evidence about News of the World e-mails which he told the court had been lost in transit to India.
It later transpired that the e-mails had never been sent to India at all. Bearing in mind that Mr Sheridan’s defence team had been looking for access to them in connection with his defence, the incorrect evidence he gave may suggest that there could have been an attempt to interfere with the course of justice, if not perjury itself.
By this stage, Messrs Yates and Hayman had given evidence to the Select Committee and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner had resigned. It was being laid bare how poor and inept the original inquiry had been.
As I concluded ” Whether this “blind eye” approach was anything more sinister than simple incompetence will, hopefully, be addressed by one of the myriad of inquiries which seem to sprouting daily in connection with these matters.
What seems clear is that the police wanted little or nothing to do with this investigation – it was downplayed as much as possible – the bare minimum action was taken, and the whole sorry mess can be summed up by the picture of Mr Mulcaire’s 11,000 pages of notes lying in plastic bags in a Scotland Yard store room for four years, uncatalogued and ignored.”
I am a great fan of baseball, and over the last few years there has been an enormous explosion of interest in the use of performance enhancing drugs in the sport, and the attempts to stamp this out.
Two of the biggest names in the sport, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, have found themselves sitting in criminal courts facing perjury charges.
I thought that it would be interesting to see if there were any lessons that could be learned from either case as far as any potential perjury case might be concerned regarding witnesses in the Sheridan trial.
I feel (though I am biased as I wrote it) that there are a number of parallels and thus areas where we might gain a better ides as to how matters might progress domestically.
By this stage, there was a lot of discussion about the possibilities of court proceedings. One of the topics being raised was the suggestion by some that if it was shown that the NotW witnesses had lied about anything then (a) this was perjury and (b) Tommy Sheridan had been wrongfully convicted.
I tried in this post to explain the legal requirements for a perjury charge and how it was possible to tell lies in court and not commit perjury. This meant that there is quite a lot of law in this piece, by way of me “showing my workings” © Lallands Peat Worrier.
By now the news had broken that Mr Sheridan’s appeal had been refused at the “sift” stage. This meant that he would not be granted an appeal hearing, because his ground or grounds of appeal were not felt to be arguable.
I wanted to give an indication as to why this might have been determined, and what options remained open to him.
I also wanted to clarify why the request by the defence to have the time for the appeal extended had failed.
One of the particularly striking pieces of evidence in the case was the “McNeilage Tape”. Whilst the authenticity of this had been questioned at the trail, neither party led any expert evidence to either confirm that the tape was genuine, or to refute that.
There have been various theories suggested as to why this was the case, and I thought it useful to look at these, and the implications of the Cadder case for the testing of the video tape.
One of my readers had taken the time and trouble to prepare a detailed comment regarding various of the issues in connection with the case. I felt this would be a good way of giving my thoughts, views and arguments regarding various points in connection with the case, rather than engaging with limited specific issues as I had done before.
Hopefully my comments provide some additional clarification of what is an extremely complicated situation. I am very much appreciative of Joseph Syme’s time in preparing his thoughts. As those provided an excellent template within which my answers would fit.
There remain many issues concerning this matter. The narrow issues of Mr Sheridan’s trail and the appeal by the NotW against his £200,000 award on one hand, and the wider factors surrounding phone hacking, and the iniquities of the NotW together with perhaps the rest of Fleet Street will all require further analysis and clarification.
I hope to be able to shed some light on these issues in future posts, and I am always happy for readers to contribute with their own thoughts.