Yesterday saw publication of the DCMS Report on phone hacking at News International. Tom Watson MP has been a vigorous investigator in these matters for which he deserves credit. However, according to Louise Mensch MP, he managed to break the committee on party lines by inserting a line about Mr Murdoch not being “a fit and proper person”. This was despite the fact that such a conclusion seems to have been outwith the terms of reference of the Committee. However, as Parliament is sovereign, it can reach such a conclusion, if it wishes.
Mr Watson has championed the cause of Tommy Sheridan. The former MSP was gaoled for perjury committed in his successful damages action against News International.
Mr Watson was again manning the ramparts for Mr Sheridan yesterday, declaring that the details uncovered by his Committee made the conviction unsafe. He can be found discussing the matter in detail here.
It might be fair to say that, if the Sheridan Trial took place today, the odious conduct of some of the News of the World staff might persuade a jury to acquit, but, BASED ON THE EVIDENCE given to the trial court, such a verdict would not accord with the evidence.
Mr Sheridan’s appeal against conviction was rejected as unsustainable by the Appeal Court without a full hearing.
I have previously written, at some length, about the Sheridan case, and the potential implications for (a) the trial verdict and (b) possible prosecution of witnesses at the trial itself for alleged perjury.
My “compendium” of pieces can be found here.
I would also heartily recommend the excellent analysis by the Lallands Peat Worrier, which can be found here.
LPW titled his piece, written in August 2011, “A numpty’s guide to appealing Tommy Sheridan’s conviction… “
Read it in detail, but his conclusion makes the position clear.
“In the absence of emails drafted in the hypothetical, fundamentally incriminating terms I describe, I struggle to see that the High Court will be moved to overturn the jury’s decision. Similarly, if … alleged perjury is limited to the general unlawful practices of employees at the News of the World, and his knowledge of them, how does that impact on the critical issues of the Sheridan trial, concerning swingers clubs, his confessions to his colleagues and his lies about both in Court? These are the questions which Sheridan’s representatives will have to work up persuasive answers to, if their client is to see his conviction quashed on grounds of new evidence. As the Lord Justice General noted, setting aside the verdict of a jury is no light matter. And on these tests, convincing the High Court to overturn Sheridan’s conviction may be a very tall order indeed, despite alleged perjury, despite absent emails, whatever Tom Watson believes.”
As former Law Society of Scotland President Ian Smart, tweeting in his personal rather than ex officio capacity, commented last night, and I paraphrase “How does alleged perjury by defence witnesses help an accused overturn his conviction?”
Mr Sheridan, as detailed in Gregor Gall’s excellent book “Tommy Sheridan: From Hero to Zero” was convicted because of mistakes he made. Even if he became a target for the NotW, this was because of his own actions. Whilst the NotW has died as a result of phone hacking, nothing revealed so far casts, in my view, any doubt upon the jury’s verdict against Mr Sheridan.
It looks as if Mr Watson has not followed LPW’s advice from last August “However, we can be absolutely clear that Tom Watson MP is quite wrong in law to suggest that the absence of these emails by itself makes the case’s outcome fundamentally questionable. Watson may hold that view, but the High Court of Justiciary certainly won’t sympathise.”
Posted by Paul McConville
6 responses to “Tom Watson MP Declares Tommy Sheridan’s Conviction for Perjury Unsafe – He is Wrong”
Seems fairly straightforward to me, Paul. Mr Sheridan lied under oath. He was convicted of perjury. I don’t see any argument that can change those facts.
If Sheridan’s conviction is overturned and Rangers are still playing in the Premier League I will have given up the will to live!
Tommy bad ,Rangers worse
Looks like Andy Coulson has now been detained and questioned about his possible perjury in this case. Oh what a tangled web ………..
I think his lawyer Aamer Anwar cleverly dragged Coulson into this knowing what would come. A great move, how ironic Aamer now works for the notw replacement paper.
The court case may have been about a lot of things, Tommy was almost an irrelevance. He done it. He is finished, and rightly so.
Are we not missing the wood for the trees here? Coulson is not yet charged and is of course innocent until proven guilty. I do, however, note that Coulson would only be charged with perjury if the prosecutors feel the falsehoods uttered were material to the Sheridan case – it could not be a perjury otherwise? If a jury has heard evidence from whatever source that is material and it later emerges that such evidence was a perjury then what are the higher courts to do? A retrial without the perjured evidence and without fabricated exhibits seems the correct outcome.
The defence case in summary was that the NOTW sting and campaign against Sheridan was a fit up using unlawful methods. For example it alleged that that a very important prosecution exhibit – the McNeilage video tape was a fabrication by the NOTW.
Importantly the personal details revealed in it the tape were what led the prosecution to claim to the jury that the tape was genuine. The defence claimed these details were likely obtained by the “dark arts” of Mulcaire and/or corrupt state agents et al through phone hacking. The personal details were then voiced by an actor to give the tape colour.
The prosecution countered this by saying that such claims of phone and computer hacking by the NOTW and/or corrupt state agents were a fantastic concoction of a desperate defendant.
Coulson was called as a defence witness to assist the defence on these points. Rather unhelpfully it must be said he declined to admit the defence allegations of immense illegality by his company were true. In fact he denied any illegality or knowledge of any illegality at all. He thus assisted the prosecution rather than the defence.
Sheridan was convicted after the jury heard submissions from the prosecution that he was a fantasist. The prosecution case was that the NOTW whilst being a bit tasty was a lawful operation and ALL the NOTW executives, including Coulson, had told the jury the truth.
If that evidence by Coulson denying illegality turns out to be a perjury then it is capable of being a grounds of appeal. This is because, despite being a defence witness, the perjured evidence supported the prosecution claim that Sheridan was a fantasist.
The defence simply wanted Coulson to tell the truth. If Coulson had not lied (as the defence claims he did) but had supported the defence proposition of criminality by the witness and his company then Sheridan’s points would have been regarded as sober grounds on which to base an unreasonable doubt.
That Coulson did not (according to the Sheridan defence) admit that illegality at the time should not in any way predujice an appeal if in later proceedings show he should have admitted the illegality. Hence the legitimate grounds of appeal IF Coulson is charged and convicted of perjury uttered in the Sheridan trial. No?
Of course it may turn out that the NOTW was not a nest of illegality, that Coulson is just a bit of a lad rather than a crook and that Sheridan was indeed a fantasist. I know where my money is on!