Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Bob Bird, conclusion of cross-examination
This morning the court was dealing with legal arguments so it was not until 2pm that evidence was heard in front of the jury with Tommy Sheridan continuing his cross-examination of Bob Bird, the Scottish editor of the News of the World.
Mr Sheridan began by asking Mr Bird about his role in a police investigation into the discovery of a "listening device" in his car. Mr Bird again denied he had any role in this and told the court that he had been spoken to about this by a police officer in Lothian and Borders police. Mr Sheridan produced the official report on the case in which the investigating officer states he had decided not to speak to anyone from the News of the World. However Mr Bird insisted he had spoken to an officer about the issue, but could not recall the name of the person.
Mr Sheridan then moved on to a series of emails he received from a Yasmin Urquhart. In these emails Ms Urquhart had made an allegation that Mr Sheridan was under 24/7 surveillance by the NotW and that the newspaper was sure they would win their libel trial. Mr Bird confirmed that Ms Urquhart was working for the NotW at the time, under the name "Ruth the Truth, the Psychic Agony Aunt" Mr Bird further stated that he did know Ms Urquhart and regarded her as a "decent woman" adding 'as a Psychic she made a lot of predictions that didn't come true" Mr Sheridan retorted "Yes, she said you would win your libel trial."
Mr Sheridan then asked a series of questions about the size of News International, and Mr Bird confirmed they owned the Sun, the News of the World, the London Times and the Sunday Times as well as a "fair chunk" of Sky TV. Mr Sheridan put it to Mr Bird that the group was "powerful" and that one of it's ex-editors, Andy Coulson was now the Government's head of communications. Mr Bird agreed the group was powerful, but said it always also did it's best to be truthful. Mr Sheridan then quoted from a report of the Parliamentary committee on Culture, Media and Sport which had described a "collective amnesia" amongst the newspaper's executives into the scale of the group's phone hacking activities. Mr Bird again called the committee "biased" as "MP's do not like tabloid newspapers poking around their private lives and expense claims" Mr Sheridan remarked "just because they are all out to get you does not mean you are paranoid" and drew a comparison with his situation. Mr Bird answered "no."
Mr Sheridan then took Mr Bird through his evidence at the commission charged with locating documents to be used in the trial. He accused Mr Bird of being obstructive during that process, which Mr Bird denied. Mr Bird told the court that the Newspaper had lost "six months" worth of emails due to a decision to archive them in Mumbai India. Mr Sheridan then asked a number of questions about the evidence of Douglas Wight at the 2006 libel trial, where Mr Wight had testified that he knew nothing about payments to Anne Colvin and Helen Allison, despite apparently having signed the contract between them and the newspaper. Mr Bird admitted that "he got that wrong" adding that Mr Sheridan would have to ask Mr Wight about the issue.
Mr Sheridan ended his cross-examination by putting it to Mr Bird that the News of the World thought it could "print lies on a daily basis " and considered itself "above the law, which Mr Bird denied. Mr Sheridan then said that the newspaper was determined to destroy him because of his poltical views and support for striking workers. Mr Bird replied "not true." Mr Sheridan then asked Mr Bird when he would next be meeting his "boss in London?" Mr Bird said he had no plans to do so. Mr Sheridan then looked at his wife in the dock and said "When you do tell him this is one relationship you will never break." He then ended his cross-examination and returned to the dock.
The Advocate Depute then rose to re-examine Mr Bird. He first asked if he recalled every meeting he had been to, Mr Bird responded that he worked 16 hours a day and could not be expected to. Mr Bird then confirmed that Anvar Khan was paid a fee of £2000 for the original "swingers club story" in the Newspaper. The court was then played a section of the "McNeilage tape" in which the person the Crown alleges is Tommy Sheridan denies ever meeting Fiona McGuire. Mr Prentice then asked if this denial of the story would be "of assistance to you" to which Mr Bird said "not at all."
With that Mr Prentice returned to his seat and Mr Bird was allowed to step down from the witness box. The case continues tomorrow.
Posted by James Doleman at 6:36 PM