Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Bob Bird, Cross-examination Day 3
Court resumed after the lunch interval with Tommy Sheridan continuing his cross-examination of Bob Bird, Scottish editor of the News of the World (NotW) Mr Sheridan began the afternoon session by turning to evidence given at the 2006 libel trial between Mr Sheridan and the NotW with particular reference to two Crown witnesses Anne Colvin and Helen Allison.
Mr Sheridan put to Mr Bird that one of his journalists, Douglas Wight had testified in 2006 that neither Ms Colvin or Ms Allison had been offered or received any payment for their story. Mr Bird replied that "Doug said they weren't paid, I think he got that wrong." Mr Sheridan then turned to Mr Bird's evidence in the same case where when asked about Mr Wight's testimony. Mr Bird had stated then that Mr Wight "perhaps he had not been aware" of the payments and "may not have known" about them. Mr Sheridan queried this answer and Mr Bird stated that he may have been "just speculating" and "perhaps waffling at that point" Mr Sheridan responded with "you waffle a lot" Mr Sheridan then put it to the witness that, as Mr Wight had signed the contract with Ms Colvin and Ms Allison, he must have known that they had been paid and was "lying" at the 2006 trial and accused Mr Bird of also being aware of that. Mr Bird replied that he should have just said "I don't know" rather than "making up an answer for him." [Mr Wight]
At this point Mr Sheridan attempted to bring into evidence Mr Bird's precognition statement. The Advocate Depute, Alex Prentice QC objected, stating that it was a long standing legal practice that precognition statements could not be put to witnesses. Lord Bracadale agreed and Mr Sheridan then produced an email exchange between Mr Bird and Douglas Wight from around two weeks before the commencement of the 2006 libel trial. In this email exchange Mr Bird and Mr Wight discuss the payments and the contracts offered to Ms Covin and Ms Allison. Mr Sheridan asked Mr Bird how he could have stated, under oath, that perhaps Douglas Wight "was not aware of the payments" as "there it was in black and white" Mr Bird said that he had also said in 2006 "it might have slipped his mind" and denied Mr Sheridan's accusation that he had tried to mislead the jury. Mr Bird added that he was "not a great orator like you" to which Mr Sheridan replied "I'm not looking for you to orate, just be truthful in court."
Mr Sheridan then returned to the question of phone hacking at the NotW and quoted the report of a parliamentary select committee which claimed there was a slush fund which showed the editors condoned such payments on a "not need to know basis" as long as this provides "good copy." Mr Bird replied that people should "bear in mind" that the parliamentary committee was "anti-News International" and had a "political agenda." and denied there was any "culture" of phone hacking at the newspaper.
Mr Sheridan then asked Mr Bird if he had any dealings with a Glen Mulcaire, which the witness said he had not. Mr Bird was then asked about his testimony to the commission dealing with documents in the case, where he had stated that the newspaper had not employed any private investigators in relation to this case, testimony that Mr Sheridan called a "lie." Mr Bird replied that the NotW had employed a private investigator to try and find Duncan Rowan, but as the investigator had not found him he had forgotten about it. Mr Bird admitted he had "got that wrong" and when he had checked he had found that "one instance." Mr Sheridan then asked the witness if he had been involved in hiring the private investigator who had "hacked my phone" Mr Bird denied he had ever done such a thing. The jury then left the court briefly while a legal argument was resolved.
When the jury returned Mr Sheridan asked the witness again if he had any dealings with Glen Mulcaire or if any check had shown up any invoices in the aliases he used (Paul Williams and John Jenkins) Mr Bird said he had no dealings with Mr Mulcaire. Mr Sheridan then asked if mr Bird was aware that Greg Miskiw was Mr Mulcaire's "handler" within the News of the World. The witness replied he did not. Mr Sheridan put it to Mr Bird that Mr Mulcaire had an "exclusive contract" with the NotW, Mr Bird said he had no knowledge of that. Mr Sheridan then asked if before 2006 anyone at the "English" edition of the NotW would be interested in stories about him to which the witness replied "on the whole no."
Mr Sheridan then produced three pages of what he told the court were copies of a notebook found when Mr Mulcaire's house was raided by the police.These notebooks appeared to contain Mr Sheridan's address, postcode, mobile telephone number, the name of his telephone provider and what Mr Sheridan said was his "PIN" number. There was also a reference to "Gregg" in a note beside the details and two dates, 14/09/04 and 26/07. Mr Sheridan put it to Mr Bird that these were the dates when the NotW was preparing their articles about him. Mr Bird pointed out that the second entry had no year, but agreed that the dates were around the time of the publication of Anvar Khan's book, Pretty Wild and the NotW's subsequent article based on it. Mr Sheridan then told the court that Mr Mulcaire, and a London police officer, would be defence witnesses at the trial.
Mr Sheridan asked Mr Bird if he was "surprised that a private investigator with an "illegal track record" an "exclusive contract" with the NotW and based in London, would have "my details." Mr Bird said he was. Mr Sheridan put again to Mr Bird that he had "broken the law by ordering illegal surveillance" and planting "listening devices" Mr Bird replied that was "not true."
Mr Sheridan ended the day by asking Mr Bird about Yasmin Urquart and if the witness had ever discussed his case with her. Mr Bird replied that Ms Urquart was a "Psychic Agony aunt" so "why on earth would he?" Mr Sheridan then told the court he was about to move on to a "new chapter" of evidence and as it was 3.55pm the court then rose for the day.
The trial continues tomorrow with Mr Bird still on the witness stand.
Posted by James Doleman at 6:53 PM