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Tommy Sheridan facing years in jail

A DISGRACED but defiant Tommy Sheridan is facing years in jail and possible financial ruin after being convicted in a dramatic end to his perjury trial.

Hand-in-hand with her husband after they had been allowed to spend Christmas together pending his sentencing next month, Gail Sheridan declared she would always stand by her man.

In chaotic scenes outside the High Court in Glasgow, Sheridan questioned the spending of "millions of pounds" of public money on investigating him and his wife.

A crowd of supporters chanted "Innocent" and cheered loudly as Sheridan added: "Is it not time similar resources were devoted to investigating the activities of the News of the World?"

Just a few minutes earlier, the jury had returned its verdict in the silence the trial judge, Lord Bracadale, had demanded of the packed public galleries.

It had been said during the case that you could have heard a pin drop at a meeting of the Scottish Socialist Party when Sheridan confessed to visiting a swingers' club. A pin dropping in the court would have been deafening.

"Guilty" the spokeswoman of the jury declared when asked the verdict. And it was guilty to five of the six allegations of perjury, of which Sheridan had insisted he was innocent.

Some women on the jury were in tears as the tension was broken by the announcement. Sheridan showed no emotion but remained seated in the dock, staring ahead. To his right, in the front row of the public seats, Gail, too, was restrained and gazed into space.

• Gail Sheridan may have pledged her loyalty to husband Tommy, but her critical expression after yesterday's verdict tells a rather different story. Picture: Getty

Lord Bracadale said he wanted a background report before sentencing on 26 January and would continue bail, but left he Sheridan in no doubt as to what lay in store."You have been convicted of a serious offence of perjury and must return on the 26th expecting to begin a prison sentence," he said.

Observers estimate the length of that sentence at about five years.

After the court adjourned, Sheridan left the dock and shook hands with and embraced his solicitor, Aamer Anwar. Then, he made it to his wife, and planted a kiss on her cheek and patted her back. He returned to the dock to collect belongings, thank the security officer who had been his escort, and put on his scarf.

Emerging from the courtroom, his supporters clapped and cheered. He made his way with Gail and Mr Anwar out of the building to face the waiting media. Mr Anwar said there was a statement to read, and that no further comment would be made until sentencing.

"For three years, my wife and I have fought charges of perjury. Today I was convicted, but my wife was acquitted (earlier in the trial]. I have fought the power of News International all my political life and I make no apology for taking on the might of Rupert Murdoch," the statement read.

"Several million pounds of public money was spent investigating me and my wife. Is it not time that similar resources were devoted to investigating the activities of the News of the World? I want to thank all those who have shown us kindness and solidarity."

No mention was made of any plans for an appeal.

Gail said: "I would like to thank everybody across Scotland for the wonderful support throughout the last six years they have given to Tommy and I. Our family and our real friends, our real friends, have stood by us. I have and will always stand by Tommy."

The couple hugged before fighting their way through the throng of cameras.

Sheridan won record 200,000 damages when he sued the News of the World in 2006 over allegations about his private life, including that he visited Cupid's swingers' club in Manchester and cheated on his wife on other occasions.

The award was never paid because the News of the World appealed, and the appeal was shelved until after the current prosecution.

The verdict will clearly assist the tabloid in its appeal, and, if the award is overturned, Sheridan could be hit with a bill for the expenses of the civil action, potentially bankrupting him.

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The News of the World last night issued a statement saying "justice has been done".

It said: "As is now clear, Mr Sheridan lied to a court to secure victory when he sued the News of the World for defamation in 2006. We have an appeal lodged against that defamation verdict and we now look forward to that appeal succeeding in Scotland's Court of Session."

In the trial, Sheridan had faced 15 allegations of perjury in his evidence to the Court of Session in 2006. Over the past 12 weeks, in what is believed to be the longest perjury trial in Scottish legal history, those allegations were reduced to six.

The jury of 12 women and two men – one juror had been discharged earlier – deliberated for nearly six hours over two days. At one point yesterday afternoon, they returned to court to ask a question of the judge. Sheridan, who had been playing cards with friends to try to stay calm, must have feared the worst when he heard the question. It was about whether they could delete a part of one of the allegations. The judge said they could – if they were returning a guilty verdict.

Then, as tension mounted, word spread that the jury were returning again, and this time they had a verdict.

Before they were brought in, Lord Bracadale warned that the jury must be given the utmost respect and the verdict received in silence. Up to ten police officers were in court, and he said they would remove anyone acting "inappropriately." Such a person could suffer the penalties available for contempt of court.

The jury spokeswoman said the verdict was guilty, by a majority vote, but under two deletions. The first was to remove entirely an allegation that Sheridan had lied about an affair with Anvar Khan, a News of the World columnist. The second was to remove Sheridan's home address from the allegation concerning an affair with Katrine Trolle, an SSP activist. She had said they had sex in his bed, under his wedding photograph, just before Christmas.

He was convicted of lying in three respects about an SSP meeting on 9 November, 2004, when he admitted attending a sex club; of lying about making a trip to Cupid's with others, including Ms Khan and Ms Trolle, on 27 September, 2002, and of lying about an affair with Ms Trolle between 2000 and 2005.

A statement from Sheridan's former political allies in the Scottish Socialist Party said their former leader had "disgraced himself and negated his political contribution" by his actions.

It said: "Six years ago, as leader of the Scottish Socialist Party, he proposed to sue a tabloid newspaper over stories he knew to be true and demanded that our party went along with his lies.

"He will now be dealt with by the judge. We have no desire for vengeance. What is more important is that all those who have been falsely denounced by him and his allies as liars, plotters, perjurers and forgers have been cleared."

 
 
 

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