Battle looms on 'Sheridan confession'
A SECRET videotape that appears to show Tommy Sheridan admitting to the scandal at the heart of his defamation case against the News of the World is set to be used in court to try to overturn the decision against the paper.
Mr Sheridan went to court after the News of the World claimed he had visited a sex club. The paper has now published details of a recording it says was made by George McNeilage, a former friend of the MSP and the best man at his wedding in 2000. It allegedly shows Mr Sheridan telling Mr McNeilage about two visits to a swingers' club in Manchester in 1996 and 2002.
He also appears to say he confessed to Alan McCombes, the policy co-ordinator of the Scottish Socialist Party, and admitted the visits to a meeting of the SSP in November 2004.
Mr Sheridan denied visiting the club or admitting to any visits during the court hearing this summer. And the former leader of the SSP, who now leads a new party, Solidarity, has accused the News of the World of faking the video.
The Crown Office is conducting an inquiry, to which the tape may be submitted, into whether perjury was committed at the hearing, And it understood the News of the World will use the recording as a "major part" of its appeal against the verdict.
In an eight-page spread, the paper yesterday printed a transcript of the alleged conversation. Mr McNeilage said he recorded the discussion in November 2004 as he was increasingly concerned that Mr Sheridan was betraying the SSP by lying about his private life.
However, Mr Sheridan claimed the tape was a lie. He said: "Mr McNeilage must be seriously hard up to lower himself to the gutter and co-operate against a former friend."
The News of the World says the videotape was analysed and assessed by four leading authorities on voice analysis, including Tom Owen, an American who has worked on the verification of Osama bin Laden tapes for the CIA.
But Mr Sheridan insisted it was a fake. He said: "A fictitious tape has been invented, concocted and unleashed on a Scottish public sick to the back teeth of the News of the World's constant lies.
"They [the paper] will not forgive me for humiliating them. Their vendetta against me, my family and my political beliefs continues. They are trying to break me politically and personally. They will fail on both counts."
He added: "My new party, Solidarity, grows daily, while my relationship with my wife, Gail, is unbreakable."
But MSP Frances Curran, who testified in court that Mr Sheridan had admitted going to the swingers' club, called for him to stand down.
"Anyone who knows Tommy and listens to the tape will find his claims that it is a fake frankly laughable," she said.
"It joins the long list of Tommy's fantasy claims about plots, fake minutes and all the other tall tales told over the summer. My advice to him is: you're in hole - stop digging. It's time to tell the truth and apologise to those you have branded liars.
"The tape clearly vindicates the truthfulness of the evidence given by the 11 SSP witnesses and the stand taken by the party to tell the truth in court."
The Crown Office confirmed that an investigation into the trial was ongoing but would not comment on whether the videotape would be included in the inquiry.
Roddy Dunlop, an advocate specialising in defamation, said the tape was likely to be woven into both the Crown Office investigation and the forthcoming News of the World appeal.
Written minutes of the SSP's November 2004 meeting, which were handed into the police after the trial, could also be included.
Mr Dunlop said the Crown Office could use any new information to decide whether to take the case to a criminal court, although there might be questions as to whether the evidence would be admissible in any perjury trial. He said: "Perjury is viewed very seriously and it is almost impossible to envisage circumstances where someone found to have perjured the criminal justice system would not go to jail. Recent experiences in the Jonathan Aitken and Jeffrey Archer cases suggest that is the case."
He said the News of the World was likely to use the tape as part of its appeal. However, it was up to the judges to decide whether it was genuinely fresh evidence, or "res noviter". If the appeal judges found there was new evidence, it could lead to a new defamation trial.
Mr Dunlop said: "If, at the appeal hearing, the judges are satisfied either that the decision of the jury was perverse or that the information that has come to light since satisfied the test of res noviter, then they will send it back for a fresh trial and it all starts again with a new trial, a new jury."
New claims give sensational twist to 'sex, lies and videotape' libel case that will not go away
THE Tommy Sheridan trial has proved to be one of the most sensational defamation trials in Scotland and the latest allegations of "sex, lies and videotape" only add to that.
Mr Sheridan brought the case against the News of the World over allegations he was a swinger, a man who cheated on his wife with several woman and took part in orgies. The newspaper said this showed he him to be a hypocrite, as he had built up a reputation in politics as a devoted family man.
However, Mr Sheridan denied all the allegations, even calling on his wife Gail to give evidence.
Mrs Sheridan questioned why none of her husband's alleged lovers had mentioned his copious body hair and claimed she would have murdered him if the allegations were true.
Mr Sheridan claimed many of the witnesses had lied as a result of a civil war in the SSP or had been paid by the News of the World.
He won the case after the jury decided that Mr Sheridan had been defamed by false statements and was awarded the largest sum in a defamation case in Scottish legal history at 200,000.
However, the News of the World immediately lodged an appeal against a "perverse decision" by the jury.
The Crown Office also launched an investigation into whether perjury had been committed during the trial.
With such high-profile witnesses as fellow MSPs Rosie Kane, Carolyn Leckie, Frances Curran and Colin Fox claiming Mr Sheridan had admitted going to a swingers club versus MSP Rosemary Byrne claiming he had not, any perjury trial could end with more politicians in the dock.
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