Tommy Sheridan to keep his own counsel

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THE Tommy Sheridan perjury trial has taken a sensational yet familiar turn after he sacked one of the country's leading lawyers and decided to present his own case to the jury.

• Tommy Sheridan will make his own case. Picture: Getty

Just as he had done four years ago in his successful defamation case, the former Scottish Socialist Party MSP yesterday opted to dispense with a QC and represent himself.

In a charged atmosphere, the 13 women and two men of the jury were brought in to Court Four of the High Court in Glasgow 90 minutes late to take their seats.

They had not been privy to an announcement earlier that Margaret Scott, QC, would no longer be appearing for Sheridan, but her absence, and that of her two junior counsel, Shelagh McCall and Jillian Brown, at the lawyers' table was immediately drawn to their attention by the judge Lord Bracadale.

"I am sorry about the delay but I thank you for your patience," said Lord Bracadale, as the trial entered its second week.

"There has been some development in the case. You will see Ms Scott and junior counsel are no longer here. Mr Sheridan has instructed his solicitor to withdraw counsel's instructions and Mr Sheridan will now conduct his own defence."

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A gasp from the public benches of the courtroom greeted the judge's words as Sheridan listened intently from his seat in the dock. But Lord Bracadale stressed that going it alone was a choice open to all under Scots law. "An accused person is perfectly entitled to do that," he said. "He will continue to have the support of his solicitor (Aamer Anwar] to render appropriate assistance before the court."

It would be possible for Sheridan to ask the judge whether he can recall witnesses who have already given evidence. The final decision would rest with the judge.

Dismissing his counsel had been described as a "significant development" two weeks into the 2006 civil action in the Court of Session in Edinburgh, when Sheridan sued the News of the World over allegations it had made about his private life.

At the start of the litigation, Sheridan had the services of Richard Keen, QC, one of Scotland's foremost advocates who would go on to become dean of the Faculty of Advocates, and Graeme Henderson as junior counsel. During the second week, Mr Keen was unavailable due to a long-standing commitment to an appeal in the Lords, and Mr Henderson took on the task of cross-examining witnesses.

However, following his questioning of one woman in particular, Sheridan said he was "less than satisfied" about his representation, and he was ditching his entire legal team and would assume control for the rest of the trial.

In the end, the jury found for Sheridan and awarded him 200,000 damages.It is that civil action which has led to the current criminal trial where Sheridan, 46, and his wife, Gail, also 46, are accused of giving perjured evidence at the Court of Session. Both deny the charge.

Celebrated QC Donald Findlay had been lined up at one point to appear for Sheridan in the perjury trial, but his place was taken by Ms Scott during the preliminary stages.

Lord Bracadale told the jury there would be no evidence heard yesterday and adjourned the case until Thursday.