Detective denies police 'vendetta' against the Sheridans

Detectives were accused yesterday of conducting a vendetta against Tommy Sheridan and of branding his wife a terrorist after she had refused to answer questions in an interview.

Gail Sheridan became upset in the dock of the High Court in Glasgow and was given a short adjournment as her husband cross-examined a senior officer about a search of their home, including the clothes drawers of their two-year-old daughter.

Sheridan also quizzed the witness over the "bullying and intimidating" interview of his wife, when her rosary beads were removed.

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Detective Sergeant Stuart Harkness denied any mistreatment of Mrs Sheridan and said she had been failing to engage with her questioners by focusing solely on the beads.

He insisted he had not accused her of being a terrorist and added: "I merely said her actions reflected those of someone trained in that technique."

Sheridan said: "You conducted a vendetta against me, my family and my friends."

DS Harkness replied: "I would strongly disagree with you in that regard."

He was the prosecution's final witness and the advocate-depute, Alex Prentice, QC, then announced he was deleting parts of the perjury charges which Sheridan, 46, and Gail Sheridan, 46, face. Last week, other sections had also been removed.

Sheridan won a defamation action against the News of the World in 2006 over allegations it had published about his private life. It is alleged in the current trial that he and his wife gave perjured evidence in the litigation. Both deny the charge.

DS Harkness, 38, was second in command of Operation Median, the perjury investigation by Lothian and Borders Police following the 2006 case in the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Sheridan claimed there had been "a pre-determined view", and that detectives had been taken off other inquiries into crimes such as murder and rape to work on the perjury investigation, a "gold-plated inquiry given a blank cheque". DS Harkness said it was common for officers to be redeployed from one inquiry to another.

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A search was carried out at the Sheridan home just before Christmas 2007. DS Harkness said he had not been part of the search team but Sheridan asked why it had been necessary to rifle his daughter's clothes drawers.

"There may well have been documentation in that drawer.People go to strange lengths to hide stuff," said DS Harkness.

Sheridan suggested the search had lasted about eight hours, and had involved nine officers.

Sheridan said his wife, on legal advice, had exercised her right to remain silent when interviewed in a police station in Edinburgh, but said she had still been subjected to five hours of questioning and her rosary was taken from her.

DS Harkness said Mrs Sheridan had been concentrating on the beads alone. It was like a focusing technique used by trained terrorists. He had told Mrs Sheridan that he had interviewed people under the Terrorism Act and "that's the kind of activity I would expect from them".

Sheridan said: "That was pure intimidation. Was it because she was a practising Catholic and remaining silent that you accused her of acting like a PIRA terrorist? You acted in a bullying and shameful manner."

DS Harkness said: "Not at all. "

Sheridan's defence evidence is due to begin today.