Friday, October 8, 2010

Day 5 Morning session

A fascinating morning, lots to cover which I'll do my best to summarise before returning to the court at 2pm. This morning we heard from Carolyn Leckie, and SSP MSP from 2003 to 2007 and a key witness for both sides of the case. As well as seeing the full video produced by George McNeilage,and released by the News of the World

The deputy advocate began by asking Ms Leckie about her opinion of the News of the World, she stated that it was in her view a "disgraceful paper" especially in it's treatment of women. She agreed that she would not be interested in helping the publication and wanted "no truck with it."

She stated that her goal after the initial allegations surfaced about Mr Sheridan was to get him to either "Put his hands up {ie admit the claims were true] or keep quiet" A phrase she repeated on a number of occasions. She concurred with previous prosecution witnesses that Mr Sheridan had admitted attending the sex club in Manchester twice at the 9th November SSP Executive meeting. She described this as leaving the party in a "terrible dilemma." She claimed, as have the other witnesses that despite Mr Sheridan having admitted the allegation was true he still wished to take an action for defamation against the News of the World. She regarded this course of action as hypocritical and that it could lead to him, and by extension the whole SSP, losing their reputation for honesty and integrity.

She also mentioned that at that time Mr Sheridan was supporting a measure proposed to the Scottish Parliament by Margo McDonald MSP to introduce tolerance zones for prostitution (a measure she personally was against) To do this while admitting attending an establishment (ie Cupid's) with "direct links to prostitution" she regarded as a course fraught with political danger.

She also remarked "I think it is disgusting that Tommy is making Gail (Mrs Sheridan) sit through this." and that Tommy's version of events was "fiction" "a conspiracy theory" and that "even his own supporters know the truth." She was then shown an article from the Scottish Daily Record from the 7th August 2006. This article, produced after Mr Sheridan won his libel case, is headlined "I'll destroy the scabs who tried to ruin me" and inside has a picture of, amongst others, Ms Leckie with the word "Scab" stamped on it. She said she had been "absolutely gutted when she saw this as all her life she had been a socialist and thought the word scab was "the worst you can throw" and that it was "calculated to hurt her and her colleagues.

The court then went on to review the George McNeilage video which, for the sake of time, I'll discuss in a separate post later today.

During the cross examination by Maggie Scott QC the atmosphere in court became very tense and Ms Leckie and Ms Scott had a number of heated exchanges. Ms Scott brought back into evidence the Daily Record "Scab" picture of her and Rosie Kane taken at the start of the Libel action in 2006 and asked if they were so upset to be "dragged" to court why were they smiling? Ms Leckie responded that Rosie Kane had cracked a joke and is she "not allowed to smile now?" When asked her view on the verdict in the libel case she responded that she had been "very angry about the verdict" as it "made us look like liars."

Ms Leckie was asked by Ms Scott about a text message sent to her by Alan McCombes that was apparently also sent to, by mistake, to Mr Sheridan. In this text Mr McCombes supposedly expresses concern that Tommy Sheridan may have been about to leave the SSP and join Respect (a left wing party represented by George Galloway MP in the UK Parliament.) This is, I believe the first time that the notion of Mr Sheridan leaving the SSP prior to his resignation as convener has been mentioned the case.

There were also a series of questions about Ms Leckie's personal life after it was revealed that she had conducted a relationship with Alan McCombes while he was still married. Asked by Ms Scott if as a "Feminist" she was a hypocrite for having an affair with a married man, she responded angrily that if she had been asked to resign over this she would have and certainly not brought a defamation action. She went on to accuse Maggie Scott QC of "throwing around scurrilous accusations" for which she had "no evidence" Ms Scott responded that Ms Leckie had "no idea what evidence I have" with which the court adjourned for lunch.

The case continues.