Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tommy Sheridan begins his own defence.



The majority of the court's time this morning was taken up with various legal motions and organisational issues resulting from of Mr Sheridan's decision to dismiss his advocate Maggie Scott QC. Lord Bracadale the presiding judge reminded the gathered media that they should not report anything that happened in court outwith the presence of the jury.

The jury was recalled at noon and the court proceeded with the next prosecution witness, Joanna Harvie. Ms Harvie stated her occupation as a journalist and confirmed she was editor of the Scottish Socialist Voice (the newspaper of the Scottish Socialist Party) in 2004 and was, in this capacity, a member of the SSP executive committee.
She testified that she first heard of the allegations about Mr Sheridan from Alan McCombes on the 8th November 2004. She was "hugely concerned" by this news which she found "distressing. She was then asked about the emergency SSP executive meeting on the 9th of November (called by previous witness Colin Fox the  "9/11" meeting) and she confirmed she had seen Barbara Scott the minute secretary take notes. Her evidence was similar to that of previous witnesses, stating that Mr Sheridan had admitted attending a "sex club" on two separate occasions that he had said "he didn't know what it was that made him do it" that he had been "reckless" and most importantly he didn't believe the News of the World could prove it was him and if they did he would sue."

Ms Harvie was then asked about the next SSP executive meeting on the 14th November 2004 and then asked if the name Fiona McGuire was mentioned (no other witnesses has been asked this) She said it had and that at the 9/11 meeting Duncan Rowan had mentioned her story (you can a report  of Mr Rowan's testimony in the post "Day 4 morning session") but not her name. When asked about Mr Sheridan's reaction she stated he had been angry saying he "didn't know who she was" When asked by the deputy advocate if he admitted this story she stated "no, quite the opposite."

The witness was then asked about a further meeting of the SSP executive that took place on the 24th November. She was shown a document and confirmed that this was presented at this meeting. When asked by the deputy advocate if everyone agreed with the  minutes (of the 9/11 meeting) she stated that Charlotte Ahmed had objected but as she had not been at the meeting she was "not allowed" to challenge them. She was then asked about the 2006 libel trial and if she had told the truth in that case. She said she had and that she was telling the truth now. She stated that the News of the World was not a paper she read and that she had no desire to help them. With that the deputy advocate ended his examination and sat down.

Mr Sheridan then began to leave the dock to begin his cross examination at the lectern used by the advocates. The judge told him that this was not allowed and that he must return to the dock. It was from this position that he questioned Ms Harvie. This observer was struck by the difference in style between Tommy Sheridan and his previous advocate, Maggie Scott QC. While Ms Scott was forensic and calm in her questioning, Mr Sheridan is far more passionate and inquisitorial.

Mr Sheridan began by asking Ms Harvie if she was married, which she confirmed, and then if her husband had been present for most of the trial so far. She said he had but denied discussing her evidence with him since the trial began. Mr Sheridan then showed the witness her statement to the police where when asked if anyone had challenged the minutes at the meeting of the 9/11 meeting on the 24th November meeting she had stated there had been an objection by a Mr Mike Gonzales. When questioned about this discrepancy from her evidence today she admitted she may have "been reminded" when discussing the case with others and that is what she recalled now. When asked by Mr Sheridan about the "United Left" group (the alleged "anti-Sheridan faction of the SSP)  Ms Harvie stated that she had attended a few meeting but only signed it's founding statement after the 2006 trial. She was then asked if she had said to a Mr Jim Monaghan that she co-wrote that statement. This she denied. She told the court that she had signed the statement in 2006 as "all hell was breaking loose," after the verdict in favour of Mr Sheridan.

Mr Sheridan then moved onto the 2006 trial and asked Ms Harvie about her attitude to the News of The World, which Mr Sheridan stated was "anti-trade union and anti-socialist." Ms Harvie agreed that it was a "horrible paper." She was then asked if "socialists should have anything to do with the NOTW" to which she responded by asking what Mr Sheridan "was trying to imply." Mr Sheridan then asked if socialists should ever give a story to such a newspaper to which the response was that it depended on what the story was, giving the example of a press release to promote an event or a campaign.

Mr Sheridan them moved on to a visit by Duncan Rowan to the offices of the SSP on the 10 November 2004 where he told Ms Harvie he had been to the offices of the News of The World and given them a story (again see relevant post below) When asked who she had told within the SSP of this she said no-one, although she had advised Mr Rowan to inform Alan Green, the SSP national secretary. Mr Sheridan expressed incredulity at this answer and put it to the witness that she "didn't care he was at the News of The World because he was there to do me in." Ms Harvie strenuously denied this, and said that Mr Rowan had been "so so stupid" and she had tried to talk him out of this course of action.

Mr Sheridan then moved onto the actions of the SSP after four members had been cited to produce all relevant documents for the 2006 libel trial. They discussed the SSP's "strategy of defiance" which Mr Sheridan called a "conspiracy to commit contempt of court." Mr Sheridan then asked that if she recalled Alan Green stating that he had taken legal advice, which she did, and asked if Mr Green had told her who supplied this advice and exactly what it was. The witness said he did not.

Mr Sheridan then brought into evidence various minutes of SSP meetings from 2006 and asked if Alison Kane had attended them (as stated in these minutes) the witness said she could not recall. Mr Sheridan asked  if she was saying that as these were SSP minutes they must be accurate, to which she replied that she believed they were but could not recall who exactly was present.

With that the court rose for lunch. As Lord Bracadale has another matter to deal with this afternoon the case will not resume until 10am tomorrow.

26 comments:

Lallands Peat Worrier said...

I'm interested that Lord Bracadale particularly reminded the press not to publicise issues dealt with in the absence of the jury. Someone at Radio Clyde News certainly wasn't listening, as they tweeted about at least one of the issues raised - were challenged by Love & Garbage - and as you can see from the dead link, quietly deleted the message.

Maggie said...

That makes you a tease for mentioning it Lallands Peat Worrier and loveandgarbage a spoilsport for having the tweet deleted. Now we are all wondering what the message was - if judges are anything to go by it's probably something daft like not advertising the fake brand of tan that tommy uses or where gail buys her knickers lol

Tam the Bam said...

I respect the judge's decision, but in my opinion Tommy should have been afforded the same access to the courtroom as a regular advocate, it only seems fair since tommy is defending himself against the disgusting, right-wing, news of the world part of the tax-dodgy murdoch empire. All the best Tommy & Gail, Solidarity!

James Doleman said...

"Dave the truthseeker"

Sorry Dave we cannot publish your comment as you break the contempt of court rules by commenting on the guilt or innocence of one of the defendants.

If you would like to redo your quote to avoid that I'll be happy to put it up.

Rgds

JD

the_voice_of_reason said...

Tam the Bam:

This is a perjury trial, and as such tommy is NOT "defending himself against the disgusting, right-wing, news of the world part of the tax-dodgy murdoch empire", but against a prosecution brought in the name of the Lord Advocate, alleging that he knowingly and deliberately told lies on oath in a proof. The Advocate Depute has no link to the "NOTW", who are not represented in these proceedings.

Willie said...

the_voice_of_reason

The spirit and general thrust of what Tam the Bam said was correct; we are not all here to get bogged down in legal technicalities. Your comment went right over my head and I'd expect most other readers too. Oh, and as you've probably guessed I am not a lawyer and most folk who read this excellent blog won't be either.

Anonymous said...

it's wuite simple, willie. Sheridan is not up against the News of the World, he is accused of a crime against the legal system.

Chrissie said...

Don't be so silly Anonymous, the News of the World's filthy fingerprints are all over this case.

the_voice_of_reason said...

Chrissie: I hope that you are joking....

Chrissie said...

the_voice_of_reason

tommy has just called the ex-editor of the news of the world (andy coulson) as a witness so how can you say that the news of the world has nothing to do with this case?

Chrissie said...

And Tommy is also going to call "Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator who was jailed for six months in 2007 for phone-hacking voicemail messages for NoTW", are you still going to persist with your argument that the news of the world has nothing to do with this case and instead it all about proof and the lord of the advocates?

Anonymous said...

The News of the World is indeed part of the Murdoch empire and deserve all the epithets attributed to them here.
However contributors are correct in their assertion that this trial has gone beyond the plucky political activist v the scum of the earth battle of the defamation trial. This is HMA v Sheridan and Sheridan.
Tommy may ask some interesting and awkward questions of Coulson but in the end Coulson and the NOTW aren't on trial here. Sooner or later Tommy will be faced with the prosecution asking the question, "Why is it that all these disparate and unconnected people who would have no truck with Murdoch and the News of the World have given the same testimony against you?"
Convincing a criminal jury of innocence is a much tougher gig than getting a jury to make an award against a huge company in a civil trial. This is why in all likelihood Coulson's appearance whilst uncomfortable for him, may not be the pivotal moment that many anticipate.

Anonymous said...

Chrissie,

it is all about proof. This News of the World stuff is a smokescreen. Let's see the evidence, shall we?

Jim said...

Anon, you have it the wrong way round, its up to the crown to prove guilt, not the defendant to prove innocence. It is the Crown who have amore difficult job this time round, proving perjury beyond doubt is extremely difficult, thats why it is rarely even attempted.

You are wrong to think that the jury can convict on your basis - "why do so many people accuse him", even if you would like it to be so.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Sheridan, albeit that he should most certainly be considered innocent until such time as a jury might determine otherwise, is also the accused in this matter. As such it is entirely appropriate that he conducts himself from the dock as per any other person who might find them-self in his situation.

Let us not forget that it was Mr. Sheridan's choice to dispense with his QC as legal counsel in this matter and not that he was prevented or obstructed in any way from receiving such professional assistance by the state.

Anonymous said...

Jim,

You are sailing very close to the wind again.

AN Other said...

Jim you're right of course that it is up to the Crown to prove guilt, so perhaps my wording was unfortunate. However, convincing a jury of innocence is the corollary of being found not guilty or not proven.
You are once again correct that it is difficult to establish guilt, particularly after such a long time.
However I think you dismiss too readily the power of corroborative evidence by witnesses, and I think you perhaps misunderstand my motives because I don't wish anything to be so in relation to this case.

Sharon said...

Jim, above, is not sailing close the wind at all. It is not a numbers games. The Crown need to corroborate their case by providing two pieces of evidence not necessarily taken separately but taken together that prove guilt. Tommy & Gail (the Defence) to need need to prove or corroborate anything. If is sufficient for Tommy & Gail to deny the charges and the jury are perfectly entitled to accept that. Of course if the accused remains silent the jury are entitled to draw an inference from that. So, in effect if the Crown presents a case the accused is "forced" into defending it, as by remaining silent will inevitably result in a "guilty" verdict by default.

Jim said...

AN other, (its difficult to distinguish one anon poster from another. I dont underestimate the power of corroborative evidence, was just pointing out the reality of what is actually happening here.

the other anon, i'm not sailing close to anything and there is no "again"

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sharon said...

At the of the trial the judge will sum up and Charge the jury. If the judge considers that there is sufficient evidence in law to convict tommy & gail he will say so to the jury in a form of a legal direction. Another point is that civil trials are decided on a balance of probabilities; in a criminal trial the case has to be "proved beyond a reasonable doubt"; and we all should know that Scottish juries have three verdicts at their disposal not guilty, guilty and not proven.

Sharon said...

Like any criminal trial, it's not so much a case of "defending" anything, its about destroying the prosecution case.

Jim said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
James Doleman said...

I've removed a couple of comments, the first because I didn't think it was appropriate the second only because it was an answer to the first.

Joanne said...

According to the Socialist Worker June 2006, "Last Sunday, a front page article in the Sunday Herald revealed that soon after that executive committee meeting in November 2004, an unnamed senior SSP official had given the newspaper full details of what had been discussed".

No excuses will do !

Barnaby said...

Excuses for who, Joanne? What's your point caller?