Tommy Sheridan fails in bid to challenge perjury conviction

Former Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan has failed in a legal bid to challenge a decision refusing to send his conviction for perjury to criminal appeal judges.

Tommy Sheridan. Picture: John Devlin
Tommy Sheridan. Picture: John Devlin

He was jailed for three years in 2011 following a trial at the High Court in Glasgow for lying during an earlier successful defamation case he brought against the now defunct Sunday newspaper the New of the World.

The newspaper had claimed that he was an adulterer who had visited a swingers’ club in Manchester.

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Sheridan (54) won £200,000 damages and a subsequent bid by the newspaper publisher to have the defamation action re-run in the wake of his criminal conviction was rejected by civil appeal judges at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

He sought leave to appeal against his conviction but was refused by judges who sift grounds of appeal and turned to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) which investigates alleged miscarriages of justice.

The SCCRC declined to refer his case to High Court appeal judges and he launched a judicial review over its decision.

But a judge in a judgment issued today dismissed his judicial review petition following an earlier hearing at the Court of Session.

Lady Carmichael said it was plain from the submissions that she heard that the former MSP disagreed with the commission’s conclusions.

But she added: “The petitioner (Sheridan) has not, however, demonstrated that those conclusions were ones which the respondents (the SCCRC) were not entitled to come to.”

The former leader of the anti-poll tax protests in Scotland maintained that there had been failure by the Crown to disclose unredacted exculpatory evidence to the defence and that there was evidence of a conspiracy among witnesses at his trial.

The SCCRC responded to submissions made to it in his application for a referral by saying: “The Commission considers that the submissions about the phone hacking, information leaks and corrupt public officials, although grand in scale, are unspecific, and again, do not go the heart of the matter _ whether the applicant committed perjury at the civil trial.”

“Taking into account all of the circumstances of the trial, the Commission does not consider that there exists any real possibility that the verdict would have been different if the undisclosed materials had been disclosed to the defence before the trial and had been before the jury.”

“Nothing in the applicant’ further submission leads the Commission to believe that there may have been a miscarriage of justice in the applicant’s case,” it said over the reasons for its decision to reject a referral.

Following his criminal trial the Crown had disclosed documents to Sheridan’s lawyers which had been recovered in police operations post-dating the case during investigations into alleged illegal activities by journalists.

Lady Carmichael was told that Sheridan considered he was “unfairly targeted” and that there was “a close and improper relationship” between police the newspaper publishers News Group Newspapers (NGN).

Gerry Moynihan QC, for the SCCRC, said skilled and experienced practitioners had applied their minds to the question of whether they believed there might have been a miscarriage of justice in the case.

The SCCRC had the advantage of being able to review the case as a whole and reached a conclusion it was entitled to reach, he argued.

In the application to the SCCRC seeking a referral to the appeal judges allegations were also made against the now deceased senior counsel Paul McBride QC who acted for Sheridan’s wife Gail.

It was related to information said to suggest that there was a leak to the News of the World by at least one of her legal team before the conclusion of the trial.

The SCCRC said in its view the evidence did not support allegations that Mr McBride was working for NGN and that Crown and/or that he disclosed confidential details of Mrs Sheridan’s defence and that of her husband to the News of the World.

Lady Carmichael said she accepted that on the basis of internal NGN emails and the absence of an explanation for the possession of a defence summary of evidence by the publisher that “an inference that falls to be drawn is that someone in Mrs Sheridan’s legal team passed the information to them”.

But the judge said: “For the avoidance of doubt I do not regard it as supporting allegations that Mrs Sheridan’s counsel ‘worked for’ NGN or for the Crown.”

She said: “The petitioner was unable to say why, if the allegations directed against the legal advisers were true, they could be said to have barred criminal proceedings or otherwise caused there to be a miscarriage of justice as regards his conviction for perjury.”