Tag Archives: Tommy Sheridan

Bob Bird Detained for Alleged Attempt to Pervert the Course of Justice re Sheridan v NOTW

The BBC has reported this morning that the former editor of the News of the World’s Scottish edition has been detained in connection with the perjury trial of former MSP Tommy Sheridan. The report states that Bob Bird is being held on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice over Mr Sheridan’s defamation action against the newspaper in 2006.

Strathclyde Police said a 56-year-old man had been detained in Glasgow.

Officers are investigating allegations of perjury and phone hacking as part of the Operation Rubicon probe.

Of course, Mr Bird has not yet been charged with any offence and, until a court declares otherwise, he is an innocent man. Continue reading

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Filed under Criminal Law, Tommy Sheridan

Tom Watson MP Wants An Investigation into Tommy Sheridan Prosecution – Why?

The Firm Magazine reported on Monday that Tom Watson MP has raised further issues about the Tommy Sheridan trial. He is quoted as saying:-

“It’s now absolutely certain that the judgment is unsound and if Alex Salmond had a shred of decency he would use all the power he has to ensure that this is urgently dealt with.

There have been key revelations about the inadequacies of the original revelations and the methodology used by the executives working for Rupert Murdoch in the Sheridan case.

It’s certain the jury would have reached another verdict if in possession of all the facts and Alex Salmond has to ask the Crown Office to investigate how on earth this case was even brought and why it went to trial.”

As my long time reader will know, I wrote a lot about the Sheridan case last year on this blog, before it became “obsessed” about an SFL3 football team. Continue reading

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Filed under Defamation, News Of The World, Tommy Sheridan

Andy Coulson “Detained” By Strathclyde Police – A Quick Guide to Detention

Andy Coulson, former “spin doctor” to Prime Minister David Cameron, and former Editor of the News of the World has been detained by officers from Strathclyde Police investigation allegations arising from evidence given at the trial of Tommy Sheridan in 2010 at Glasgow High Court.

Mr Coulson has not been arrested, despite reports stating that he has been.

What is “detention”?

Under Section 14 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, which was amended by the Criminal Procedure (Legal Assistance, Detention and Appeals) (Scotland) Act 2010, police in Scotland have the opower to detain a suspect for questioning. Continue reading

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Filed under Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure (Legal Assistance, Tommy Sheridan

Tom Watson MP Declares Tommy Sheridan’s Conviction for Perjury Unsafe – He is Wrong

 

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

 

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Filed under Criminal Appeals, Criminal Law, Politics, Tommy Sheridan

Frances Curran, Former SSP MSP, Loses Defamation Claim Against Daily Record [2011] CSIH 86 – Court Defends Press Right to “Exaggeration, Provocation and Harshness”

Frances Curran was one of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) MSP’s elected to Holyrood on the coat tails, some would say, of Tommy Sheridan.

However, when the SSP imploded in the aftermath of the News of the World’s allegations of “swinging” against Mr Sheridan, and his successful defamation claim against News International (NI) she, along with all of the other SSP MSP’s, lost her seat.

Ms Curran was not of the group which aligned itself with Mr Sheridan. She was assuredly not one of the “Sheridanistas”.

Ms Curran did not give evidence for NI in the original defamation trial, although the Daily Record suggested she had. She was not called upon to do so. Other SSP members did give evidence but unwillingly, having decided that they could not flout the law by refusing to appear.

In the aftermath of the victory for Mr Sheridan, which has turned out to be a Pyrrhic one in light of his subsequent prison sentence for perjury, three prominent SSP MSP’s, Ms Curran, Rosie Kane and Carolyn Leckie, issued a statement indicating their dis-satisfaction at the behaviour of Mr Sheridan and of the outcome of the trial.

On 5th August 2006 Ms Curran was quoted in the Daily Mail stating that Mr Sheridan had lied in the trial.

Tommy Sheridan replied in the pages of the Daily Record over the next few days. He accused Ms Curran, amongst others, of being a “scab” which is the ultimate insult to left wing politicians. He made it clear that he could see no way of working with the three specific members mentioned above for their “betrayal” of what he and the SSP stood for.

In November 2008, Ms Curran raised an action for defamation against the Record (but not against Mr Sheridan). She claimed that she had been defamed by the articles in the Record. She alleged that “the innuendo contained in the article was that, notwithstanding her professed commitment to socialism and trade unionism, the pursuer had been happy to align herself with, and to assist, the anti-socialist NI, in furtherance of a plot to destroy Mr Sheridan’s political career, and that in consequence she was a “scab” and a “political scab”, failing to act in accordance with her publicly professed principles in a way which was dishonourable, hypocritical and lacking in integrity, all of which was untrue. In particular, the article appeared to suggest that she had given evidence as a witness for NGNL against Mr Sheridan, when she had not.”

The paper defended the action, stating firstly that the articles were not defamatory, but even if they were, which was denied, they were covered by “qualified privilege” and as not motivated by malice, there was no liability.

The action was dismissed by the Temporary Judge at first instance, who upheld the defence propositions.

Ms Curran appealed and the appeal, before Lady Paton, Lord Hardie and Lord Kingarth had its decision issued today.

The court has rejected the appeal and upheld the initial decision.

The court decided that the “rough and tumble” of political discourse was an area where the court, traditionally, had been reluctant to interfere as regards defamation. The court reviewed a number of cases, including those from the European Court of Human Rights, and agreed that public figures, whilst not fair game for the press, ought to be prepared for rigorous analysis and discussion in the political field.

The judges quoted the European Court in Dlugolecki v Poland, 24 May 2009, Application no 23806/03 saying:-

The limits of critical comment are wider if a public figure is involved, as he inevitably and knowingly exposes himself to public scrutiny and therefore must display a particularly high degree of tolerance…. In the context of a public debate the role of the press as a public watchdog allows journalists to have recourse to a certain degree of exaggeration, provocation or harshness.

The court determined:-

“In particular, we are not persuaded that the article would lower the pursuer in the esteem of right-thinking members of the public. The public were well aware of the nature of Mr Sheridan’s dispute with the NGNL. As was noted by Lord Macphail in Macleod v Newsquest (Sunday Herald) Ltd 2007 SCLR 555 (quoting Neill LJ in Gillick v BBC [1996] EMLR 267):

“… (2) The hypothetical reasonable reader (or viewer) is not naïve but he is not unduly suspicious. He can read between the lines. He can read in an implication more readily than a lawyer and may indulge in a certain amount of loose thinking. But he must be treated as a man who is not avid for scandal and someone who does not, and should not, select one bad meaning where other non-defamatory meanings are available …”.

In our view, the readers of the article would appreciate that they were witnessing a political skirmish, with warring factions within the SSP and diametrically opposed views about how the party and its members should conduct themselves, including a characteristically forthright public berating by Mr Sheridan of those who, in his view, had failed to give him the unquestioning public and political support he needed in whatever way he demanded and at whatever personal cost to the individual.”

As far as the question of qualified privilege went, the court stated as follows:-

“In the present case, Mr Sheridan did not respond by calling the pursuer a liar. He focused instead upon the main themes underlying his whole campaign, namely socialism against anti-socialist forces epitomised by NI; his hope and belief that he would be wholly supported by fellow socialists, and in particular by members of the SSP; the fact that the pursuer had (so far as he was concerned) demonstrated political disloyalty both to him and to his socialist cause – which in his eyes qualified her as a “scab”; and his resulting anger and disappointment, with the caveat that he and the pursuer might find it difficult to work together in the SSP in the future. In our view, that retort, in the circumstances, came within the parameters of “fair retort”. Thus the defenders were entitled to qualified privilege on the occasion that they reported that retort.”

Bearing in mind that Mr Sheridan is a convicted perjurer, the words of the court seem almost complimentary to him! The suggestion of the court is that, rather than resort to personal attacks, as Ms Curran had done, he engaged in a political discourse detailing what he perceived to be the faults of the parties.

Finally, Ms Curran had added in a case that the words used were motivated by malice on the part of Mr Sheridan, as he now being a convicted perjurer knew that the foundation of his “attacks” on Ms Curran and others was unsound. By extension, if Mr Sheridan’s words were malicious, then the malice should be attributed to the Daily Record also.

The court rejected this argument too, saying:-

Quite apart from the lack of precedent, we consider that there is no support in principle for the pursuer’s proposition. Malice on the part of an individual is not necessarily easy to detect. Accordingly, to deprive a newspaper or other publishing medium of the defence of qualified privilege because the individual whose views were reported is subsequently proved to have been motivated by malice would, in our view, place too heavy a burden upon the publisher.”

A hearing at a later date will determine liability for costs, but one can only assume that Ms Curran will be found liable for all, or almost all, of them. The financial consequences for her will be grave. Whilst not as drastic a defeat as that of Mr Sheridan, as he ended up in prison, Ms Curran has lost the chance to vindicate her reputation (which I assume was her primary motivation, rather than financial recompense).

It would be ironic, to say the least, to see another former SSP MSP brought down by their voluntary decision to pursue a case through the courts, where in general, the politicians of the Left have been sceptical about achieving justice. Neither Mr Sheridan nor Ms Curran were forced to raise actions – but they both did and have had, or will have, to pay the consequences of their decisions.

For the press too, especially bearing in mind the barrage of negative publicity it has received and is receiving, it might be useful to bear in mind the quote from the European Court mentioned above – “In the context of a public debate the role of the press as a public watchdog allows journalists to have recourse to a certain degree of exaggeration, provocation or harshness“.

When the public perception of the press is that it only deals in exaggeration, provocation or harshness, it is legitimate to point out that, in some cicrumstances, such coverage is justified!

 

 

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Filed under Civil Law, Courts, Curran v Daily Record, Defamation, Press, Tommy Sheridan