Tommy Sheridan 'might not have been jailed' if e-mails were seen at perjury trial

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CRUCIAL e-mails at the heart of the Tommy Sheridan perjury case that were said to have been lost in India have been found at a warehouse in London.

The discovery of the "suppressed" messages about the News of the World's investigation into the disgraced former Scottish Socialist Party leader puts huge pressure on the newspaper to release the information, which Sheridan's legal team claims could have been key during last year's trial.

Police have now been urged to launch an investigation into whether the jury was misled. Scottish News of the World editor Bob Bird gave evidence at the trial that e-mails sent about the newspaper's investigation into the former Glasgow MSP had been "shipped to Mumbai".

The Scotsman has learned that the UK Information Commissioner has ruled that the e-mails were not lost in India, as Mr Bird had claimed, and that there were "continuing concerns" about some evidence.

Sheridan was convicted of five counts of perjury relating to evidence he gave in his civil court battle against the Scottish News of The World.

His legal team had demanded sight of the e-mails sent between the Scottish News of the World and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed in 2007 for hacking into the phones of celebrities and other prominent people and selling the information to the newspaper.

Yesterday, Mulcaire was accused by a lawyer for the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler of hacking into her phone while she was missing.

Labour MP and former minister Tom Watson, a senior member of a Commons committee investigating the hacking allegations, said Sheridan could have been a "free man" if the jury at last year's trial had seen the e-mails.

Mr Watson, who received a letter from the Information Commissioner ruling that the e-mails were not lost, has written to Strathclyde Police.

He suggested the jury, which convicted Sheridan by a margin of eight to six, could have reached a different verdict if the e-mails had been made available to the former MSP's legal team.

Mr Watson originally asked the Information Commissioner to step in, as the loss of e-mails broke data protection rules.

Aamer Anwar, Sheridan's solicitor, seized on what he termed Mr Watson's "extremely serious allegation" to demand that the News of the World hand over any e-mails it had received from Mulcaire about the former MSP.

Mr Bird told a pre-trial hearing last year: "I did have a look at the e-mail system, but it is, frankly, a mess, our system. Our archived e-mails have been shipped to Mumbai and it's difficult to get anything that is more than six months old." But the letter from Information Commissioner Christopher Graham to Mr Watson said the Scottish News of the World had told him that "despite what was said in court, no e-mails of related personal data was ever transferred to India".

The letter from Mr Graham went on to say the News International title had "declined to provide meaningful answers" to him about the issue, and that he had "continuing concerns about certain aspects of the evidence submitted to the courts".

Mr Watson said that the revelations showed the guilty verdict against Sheridan, which led to him being handed a three-year jail term, was "unsound" because the trial "jury was not in full possession of the facts".

He said: "I believe that a decision was made on the basis of inaccurate evidence at the trial.

"Because these e-mails were suppressed from the jury, its members were not in full possession of the facts of the case.

"Mr Sheridan could have been a free man now if the jury had been in full possession of the News International e-mails."

Mr Watson has written to Strathclyde Chief Constable Stephen House, claiming the e-mails could have "materially affected the outcome of the perjury trial".

Mr Anwar told The Scotsman that the release of the messages could form a key part of the appeal Sheridan lodged against his conviction last December.

He said: "During the trial, this information not disclosed to us had been requested from News International. It was a process that was like getting blood out of a stone.

"If it was a mistake that the e-mails were not lost, then it's a very serious mistake, and we'd like to know how it is going to be rectified.

"An MP has made an extremely serious allegation, and the police have a responsibility to investigate this.

"We've had great difficulty in getting our hands on this crucial material, which may form a part of the appeal.

"We've been left in darkness about the contents of these e-mails, but they could open up a can of worms."

Mr Anwar said he had learned that the e-mails were now in a News International-owned warehouse in Wapping.

Strathclyde Police confirmed it had been contacted by Mr Watson.

A spokeswoman said: "We are considering the matters which Mr Watson has raised."

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police is investigating the allegations surrounding the phone- hacking allegations.

A spokeswoman for News International last night declined to comment.