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.
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