Sheridan waits to hear his fate

Tommy Sheridan has made a tearful, last-ditch plea to jurors, telling them he was frightened of their power to separate him from his wife and daughter at Christmas.

• Tommy Sheridan, right, and his wife Gail arrive at the High Court in Glasgow earlier in the week. Picture: Robert Perry

But he was left waiting anxiously to hear his fate after the jury in his perjury trial was unable to reach a verdict. It will resume its deliberations today.

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In his final address to the 12 women and two men of the jury, a tearful Sheridan asked to be spared jail, saying he had promised his daughter he would be with her at Christmas.

The speech brought a round of applause from the public benches of the High Court in Glasgow. However, trial judge Lord Bracadale ordered the jurors to ignore the submissions, because the potential consequences of a conviction were his responsibility alone. "It is not a matter that should affect your judgment in any way," he said.

Sheridan, 46, denies committing perjury in 2006 at his successful defamation action against the News of the World, which had published allegations about his private life.

His closing speech took five hours, spread over two days. He began his conclusion by saying he did not fear many people. He said he had been involved in a campaign to oppose Mrs Thatcher and the poll tax, and had ended up going to jail for it. He went on to highlight his opposition to "barbaric and immoral" nuclear weapons, and how he, again, had been sent to jail.

"I have never been involved in a crime of dishonesty in my life," he said. "In fact, I have built my reputation on honesty. The News of the World, the Murdoch press, have tried to destroy me and my reputation.

"You know what, I am not frightened of them. I have fought them all my life and I will continue to fight them. I am not frightened of Lothian and Borders Police either, of saying they should be ashamed of the way they conducted themselves and treated me and my family."

But, with a quivering bottom lip, Sheridan told the jurors: "I am frightened of you, because you can do something the News of the World will never be able to do. You could separate me from my wife. You could make me break a promise to my daughter that I would spend Christmas with her."

Sobbing could be heard from the public benches, where Sheridan's wife and mother sat with other family members, and friends and supporters. One person called out a message of encouragement to him.

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Now in tears, Sheridan added: "Never mind emotion… you are not here to judge on emotion. On what you have heard, I ask you to believe you have heard more than enough reasonable doubt to convince you that I am innocent of the charges that remain."

As he sat down, clapping erupted and the judge announ-ced a short adjournment before he delivered his legal directions to the jury.In those directions, Lord Bracadale said it was not a political court or a court of sexual morals. The specific factual question for the jury was whether Sheridan had wilfully told lies in court while under affirmation.

"You must put out of your mind any feelings of sympathy you have for anyone involved in this case. Nor can you be swayed by any consideration of the consequences of conviction," he said.

"On more than one occasion, Mr Sheridan made reference to the consequences of conviction for him.

"At the close of his speech, in emotional terms, he made reference to that. You must put these submissions out of your minds. No doubt the consequences of conviction are a measure of the seriousness and solemnity of the task on which you are engaged.

"But it is not a matter that should affect your judgment in any way. If that question arises, it is a matter for me."

The jury, reduced to 14 after a woman was discharged earlier in the trial, was sent out about 2:40pm. The judge told them they had to consider each of the six allegations of perjury against Sheridan, and decide, one by one, whether it had been proved beyond reasonable doubt.

"There is neither a minimum nor a maximum time for your deliberations. Simply take so long as you require to return a true verdict according to the evidence," he said.

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At 4:30pm, the jury returned without a verdict and the judge agreed to adjourn overnight.