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.
Posted by James Doleman at 3:03 PM