Cops spent £1m chasing Tommy Sheridan

POLICE chiefs today defended their decision to spend more than £1 million investigating Tommy Sheridan in the run-up to his perjury trial.

• Tommy Sheridan leaves the High Court in Glasgow yesterday after being found guilty of perjury

Lothian and Borders Police spent four years investigating the case, travelling the UK and Europe to interview witnesses.

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Officers ranging from constables to a detective chief inspector had been involved in the investigation, costing the force almost 920,000 in staff payments between August 2006 and August this year, the News can reveal.

A further 270,000 was spent conducting the inquiry itself, including overtime payments, "transport, supplies and services".

Police chiefs today said the money had been spent as the force had a "duty to investigate all allegations of criminal misconduct in order to ensure that the ends of justice are met".

• Poll: Was the 1m investigation by police in the run-up to the Sheridan trial justified?

The figures, which were obtained using freedom of information laws, were revealed in the aftermath of yesterday's guilty verdict against the 46-year-old former MSP at the High Court in Glasgow.

He was found guilty, following a 12-week trial, of lying during his successful defamation case against the News of the World newspaper in 2006 over stories that he was an adulterer and visited a swinger's club.

Sheridan, who once led the Scottish Socialist Party, now faces a prison term when he is sentenced in January.

During the trial, Hugh Kerr, press officer for Sheridan's Solidarity party, suggested from his own freedom of information requests that upwards of 1.5m had been spent on the police investigation, with the trial costing, he believed, an estimated 2m or 3m.

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A police spokeswoman said: "This was a complex investigation spanning four years, and there is no doubt that the complexity and length of the inquiry has had a significant cost implication for Lothian and Borders Police.

"Nevertheless, the force received a direct instruction to investigate by the Crown, and we have a duty to investigate all allegations of criminal misconduct in order to ensure that the ends of justice are met."

The force said none of the witnesses lived within Lothians and the Borders, causing officers to travel throughout the UK and to Ireland, Denmark and the Channel Islands.

The spokeswoman added: "While the cost implications of the inquiry were carefully considered, all lines of inquiry deemed necessary were pursued, in order that a full and comprehensive report could be provided to the Crown.

Police said the cost figures, which were provided to member of the public Michael Traill, were "very basic estimates" done by calculating the average pay of the officers involved.

Labour justice spokesman Richard Baker MSP said: "At the end of the day, it's up to the procurator fiscal office and the police to determine what investigations are required and monitor the expenditure on it.

"Police investigations can cost a lot of money and that is the case not just in the Tommy Sheridan inquiry.

"We cannot underestimate the severity of a charge of perjury. If people are allowed to lie in court then our entire legal system breaks down. In this case, the jury found that perjury had taken place.

"If a crime is committed, it needs to be investigated."

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Detective Chief Superintendent Malcolm Graham, head of the force's CID, said: "This was a long and complex inquiry carried out by Lothian and Borders Police after a High Court judge stated he was of the opinion that witnesses in a civil case had lied.

"The force has a duty to make proportionate and reasonable inquiries into allegations of criminal misconduct which are brought to its attention.

"At every stage of the investigation, Lothian and Borders Police acted on the direction of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

"All of the evidence from the civil action brought by Mr Sheridan was considered, and inquiries made it clear that perjured evidence had been given during the civil hearing."

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