Court jails Sheridan for unpaid fine

TOMMY Sheridan, the leader of the Scottish Socialist Party, was jailed yesterday for seven days for refusing to pay a fine imposed after his arrest at an anti-Trident protest.

The MSP appeared at Glasgow District Court after presenting himself at Govan police station, where he spent Sunday night in custody.

Sheridan had publicly signalled his intention to withhold payment of a 200 fine imposed last year for breach of the peace, following his arrest at Faslane naval base on the Clyde.

In court, the MSP was cheered and applauded by people waiting in the custody room as his name was read out.

Asked by the magistrate, Robert Hamilton, if he intended to pay his fine and wanted further time to do so, the Glasgow list MSP replied: "I am not. I have no intention of paying."

Sheridan, who was wearing blue jeans, a white T-shirt and a grey tracksuit top, was then led from the dock to begin his sentence.

His father-in-law, Gus Healy, who was sitting in the public gallery, was taken into custody after he raised a clenched fist in a show of solidarity with Sheridan. Mr Healy was later released without charge.

Sheridan, 39, was arrested at Faslane, the home of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, in February 2002.

The SSP leader was fined for breach of the peace at Helensburgh District Court in August last year.

Outside the court, the MSP’s mother, Alice, praised her son, who will be serving his sentence in Barlinnie Prison.

Mrs Sheridan, 65, said: "I have utter contempt for the verdict, and I am very proud of what Tommy has done.

"What enrages me is that people like Tommy are campaigning for peace and the individuals who make these weapons of mass destruction are rolling in money.

"It costs 5,000 million a year to keep Trident going. Imagine how many hospitals, houses and homes for the elderly we could build with that money."

Before handing himself in to police on Sunday, Sheridan told reporters: "Nuclear weapons are a crime against humanity and should be removed from the Clyde and from Britain.

"It is the duty of all peace protesters to make a stand against nuclear weapons.

"Politicians in particular should be at the forefront of the nuclear disarmament campaign."

However, Bill Aitken, the Scottish Conservative chief whip, criticised Sheridan for wasting taxpayers’ money.

"Scotland’s police and our criminal justice system are trying hard to cope with the rising tide of violent crime," Mr Aitken said.

"So the ego-tripping antics of Tommy Sheridan, that waste valuable time and resources, are an affront to all honest citizens and an abuse of our police and courts."

In December 2000, Sheridan was sentenced to 14 days in prison for failing to pay a 250 fine following an anti-Trident demonstration.

And as one of the leaders of the anti-poll tax demonstrations, he also spent four months at Saughton Prison, Edinburgh, in 1992 for breaching a court order by attending an anti- warrant sales protest.

Sheridan earns 49,315 as an MSP, but donates half of his wages to his party.

Dr John Marek, a Welsh Assembly member, has offered his support to Sheridan.

The independent representative for Wrexham is planning to launch a Welsh sister party to the SSP, and earlier this month invited Sheridan to Wales to speak at a meeting.

Dr Marek said: "I have the utmost respect for Tommy Sheridan. He has put his principles behind his rhetoric.

"We delude ourselves into thinking that we are more secure having nuclear weapons, but they should be scrapped and the billions of pounds used for improving our health and education services instead."