Tommy Sheridan sees cut in prison leave as proof of victimisation

FORMER MSP Tommy Sheridan has seen his week-long home leave from jail reduced to just three days by prison authorities, it emerged yesterday.

The news came on the day the convicted perjurer was released from Castle Huntly open prison to begin what should have been the first in a series of seven-day breaks from his three-year sentence.

However, The Scotsman has learned that prison officials have cut short the former Scottish Socialist Party leader's time at home with wife Gail and six-year-old daughter Gabrielle. It comes amid claims that Sheridan was being "singled out and victimised" after the initial decision to grant him a week's leave was made public.

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His lawyer, Aamer Anwar, plans to write to Castle Huntly's governor demanding Sheridan continues to receive the leave he was originally granted.

Sheridan was convicted of five counts of perjury relating to evidence he gave in his civil court battle against the Scottish News of the World. He was initially awarded 200,000 in compensation but the paper appealed.

Sheridan's friends have accused prison authorities of trying to stop the left-winger from speaking to the media during his time away from jail.

Mr Anwar said: "I have concerns about the way Mr Sheridan has been treated and have written to the governor of the prison about this.

"All that we have asked for is that Mr Sheridan is treated the same as other prisoners, but I suspect he has not been and this is a grave concern."

Sheridan spent his first day of freedom yesterday watching the parliamentary committee hearing into the News of the World phone-hacking scandal on TV.

He is expected to play five-a-side football with friends later today and host a family meal before returning to jail on Friday morning.

Sheridan, wife Gail, and his sister Lynn were carrying several shopping bags as they arrived in a silver Honda CRV at the family home in Cardonald, Glasgow, yesterday.

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His sister had earlier picked up Sheridan at Glasgow's Buchanan Street bus station, after he been driven to the city centre in a prison vehicle.

The former MSP, who was wearing jeans, white trainers and a green T-shirt, emblazoned with the word "Brazil", picked-up his six-year-old daughter Gabrielle, who shouted "Daddy" as she ran from his home to greet him.

Sheridan, who was transferred via Glasgow's Barlinnie jail, had initially been told he could spend one in four weeks away from Castle Huntly until he is eventually released.

However, The Scotsman has obtained a letter Sheridan wrote to a friend, in which the former MSP says he was told that after the three days at home, he will face a further 13 days behind bars before being allowed out for a further four days - with no week-long breaks from prison.

Sheridan claimed in the letter that his scaled-back home leave was similar to the treatment given to long-term prisoners or those at risk of reoffending.He said: "Instead of seven-days' home leave I'm being given three nights at home (from] next Tuesday and four days, 13 days after that. I've been given the staged one usually reserved for those who've been inside for several years or who pose a threat."

Outside his home yesterday, he said he had been banned from talking to the media. "I'm under strict instructions that I can't do anything," he said. "I can get photos taken in the street but I can't invite anyone in and I can't make any further comment."

A source close to the Sheridan family accused the Scottish Prison Service of treating him more harshly because of his high profile. The source said: "Once again, Tommy Sheridan has been singled out and victimised."

However, a Scottish Prison Service spokesman, while refusing to comment on Sheridan's case, said: "It's entirely usual that prisoners are allocated staged home leave for periods ranging from a single day up to a week."

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