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.


Anonymous said...

The NotW journalist referred cto today must have been Greg Miskiw, who was based in Manchester and has been reported in the Guardan as involved in the phone hacking affair.


James Doleman said...

Thanks Anon, I didn't get the spelling.

Anonymous said...

and it's douglas WIGHT not white

James Doleman said...

Thanks anon, I only hear the names so that sort of help is always welcome.

Anonymous said...

regarding the precognition statement that TS and his team attempted to use during the cross examination ,the cynic in me got the impression that they were playing the game so to speak ,they were perhaps thinking lets try and present this we might get away with it, and if we dont we will through in a wee remark about it which TS duly did, i think the remark was "something like" "thats a pity it was quite conclusive"

Campbell McGregor said...

Is there any limit on how long Sheridan can cross-examine Bob Bird for? Do people have any comments on the episode where the trial was adjourned briefly today? I was working.

James Doleman said...

He can examine him as long as the judge allows him to Campbell.

There were two brief adjourments today, one we can't talk about as the jury were out, the other was because people were getting a bit emotional and the judge called a brief time out.

Denizen said...

Can I make an observation that the judge excluded a number of lines of questioning because they touched on collateral matters. I presume that is collateral as in 'collateral damage' ie damage to NOW.
Sheridan also made the point in front of the jury that there were a large number of redactions. Especially on a document headed Sheridan expenses. The judge might well be in a bind here because he cannot overturn the Commisioners ruling but if TS is to hammer home the point that the NOW was splashing the dosh in a way that verged on corruption, it seems strange that this document is largely excluded.
You are also quite coy about the Sheridans' emotional outburst. To feel that your last, delicate chance of a having a child with the woman you love is being destroyed by the mockery of a cynical, blackmailing newspaper, is not - as some of your correspondents appear to think - just an inconvenience that you bring on yourself. Think of the words you would use if someone tried to do that to you and then tell me that Sheridan is exploiting the situation.
This emotional outburst is central to the case. If the NOW falsified even a small part of their evidence against him then it is despicable.

James Doleman said...

"You are also quite coy about the Sheridans' emotional outburst."

Yes I was Denizen, it was a powerful moment and I find it hard to write objectively about it.

Anonymous said...

Denizen: while I was not in court, I would surmise that Lord Bracadale's use of "collateral" referred to the questioning being directed to the general practices of the newspaper, rather than directed to the newspapers actings against the accused. The latter are of course legitimate matters for cross-examination.

Anonymous said...

Emotional outbursts should play no part in the Jury's verdict.

James Doleman said...

"Collateral" the legal term means

That which is collateral is not of the essence. Collateral facts are facts that are not independently provable from, and that are not directly relevant to, issues in a Cause of Action. "

Christian Schmidt said...

> If the NOW falsified even a small part of their evidence against him then it is despicable.

Heck, has anyone actually counted how often Bird has already said "we got that wrong" and how many 'mistakes' he admitted and how many things he cannot remember (or could not until TS produced evidence). Or how many of the NOTW actions could be said to be against the editor code or whatever that was that was quoted earlier? And given the total cost of this to the NOTW, in my view it is also difficult to say that they are only interested in selling copies because the benefit in extra sales surely is less than the cost (esp. since TS really is not that a story in Englandshire).

carnybull said...

Tommy's repeated the accusation he made during the libel trial to the effect that the NoW endangered the life of his wife's unborn child.
Quite apart from the possible emotional effect on jurors, does Mr Sheridan propose to adduce a jot of expert evidence to this effect? If he has no expert evidence, then the Judge should have stopped this line of questioning if it was soley calculated to inflame the emotions of the jury.

No longer a SSP member said...

My partner was in court today and she reported that the "emotional" part was when Tommy was upset about his wife being pregnant with their first child. Which was fair enough however my recollection is that it was front cover of a newspaper when Gail was only a couple of weeks pregnant and he mentioned her being 8 weeks pregnant when the story came out. Now as a father of four - we have always kept the pregnancy between us until the the wife has been atleast 10 - 12 weeks pregnant. It now makes me wonder why it was in the news at all.

I was also at a meeting where Tommy said the same thing about ex-comrades.

I never used to be as cynical as I am now but I wonder if his upsetness is genuine or theatre.

Watcher said...

"Emotional outbursts should play no part in the Jury's verdict"
Precisely, if we are to reach verdict based on an accused person's ability to turn on the waterworks at a crucial point we will not get justice.

Anonymous said...

Can I make a comment here about TS's breakdown in court yesterday?

The significance of the implications of the cross examination which immediately preceded the breakdown are clear.

Either NOTW, Bird, Khan et al are responsible for creating the risk/threat to the unborn child through their fabrication of the story. Or they substantially reported the truth. In which latter event someone else was responsible for creating the risk/threat.

Denizen said...

As you know my remarks were not meant to be critical of you, James. Tiptoeing through a legal minefield at midnight is not the best way of remembering to observe the niceties.
Interested in your definition of 'collateral'. Surely there are considerations like 'a pattern of behaviour' being established. Since the newspapers' behaviour and whether it is legal is of the utmost importance.
To anonymous 'Emotional outbursts'? The courts are conducted as confrontations. Of course they are important. They can work both ways. There was no doubting. TS's sincerity. We have had emotional outbursts galore in this trial. I don't doubt their sincerity in the sense that they project real feelings. I doubt their motivation. TS could not help himself and that is the difference.

Anonymous said...

'Anonymous said...
Emotional outbursts should play no part in the Jury's verdict.

November 17, 2010 12:27 AM'

Juries will very occasionally return verdicts which might seem perverse on any objective consideration of the evidence almost as if they are guided by a deeper concern for natural justice.

Anonymous said...

Emotional outbursts should play no part in the Jury's verdict. lol - that sounds like something a trial judge would say.

Anonymous said...

"Quite apart from the possible emotional effect on jurors" - 13 women, two men on the TS jury!

Anonymous said...

It's like when the Sheridan's home was raided and he was talking about having a "baby" in the house - a baby that goes to school?

Peter said...

Is Bob Bird now a defence witness?

Whatsy said...

The pregnancy or otherwise of someone's wife shouldn't really have any bearing on when a newspaper can run an expose on a politician. At what point during the preganancy is it OK to publish? What if the politician stands for election during this time?

Really, Mrs Sheridan's pregnancy is irrelevant to the charges, I'm surprised the Advocate Depute hasn't objected to this suggestion, and whenever it is brought up it takes the case into emotional areas for both the co-accused and some witnesses which can disrupt the trial.

Sceptic said...

When did everyone turn into emotionless machines? If TS and GS are innocent, as they claim, what they have been put through is disgusting and that should be noted. Despite the sterile atmosphere in court this case is about the fate of young family, that is why people rushing to judgement is rather sickening

James Doleman said...

Hello all, any comment that mentionds the word about "human shield" will not be published. This phrase was used in evidence so therefore will not be allowed in the comments.



Anonymous said...

This is a trick that the prosecution often play. By highlighting the horribleness of the crime and the impact on the victim, the jury feels an obligation to punish someone (which is not their job, but the judge's) which overrides their duty to ensure that it right person that the judge punishes.

Happens all the time in miscarriages of justice cases and is a well known prosecution trick.

Tommy IMHO is seeking to throw dust around again, suggesting that what they did was a horrible thing to do and in the process skating over whether what they did was print the truth or make up stories.

If anything you would think that made up stories would have less of an impact than true revelations, especially if there were such good alibis available and Gail herself was with him on the dates in question.

Anonymous said...


the case is not about the fate of a young family. It's about whether the Sheridans committed perjury in 2006.

Sceptic said...

The outcome of this case will determine the fate of a young family, I know the anti-Sheridan brigade would love for us all to forget that, but it is the truth.

Anonymous said...


the outcome of EVERY criminal case decides the fate of people and families.

People with children who have concerns about the impact of criminal proceedings on their families are advised not to commit crimes.

But this case is not ABOUT the fate of a young family, it's about whether Tommy and Gail Sheridan lied in court.

Peter said...

From court reports the evidence mounts that this prosecution has flies on it.

In the vacated Lockerbie appeal a ground for appeal was that the full extent of the involvement of powerful interests with key Crown witnesses.

That involved an agreement to fund a relocation (supposedly to avoid the approbrium an important witness would receive if they gave evidence) and various payments.

That evidence only emerged after the guilty verdict.

The jury could not therefore consider the veracity of the Crown witnesses without that knowledge - hence the lodging of an appeal, partly on those grounds, by greater legal minds than mine.

In the Sheridan case Ms Trolle has denied (under oath) any inducement was accepted by her or indeed offered to her at all.

The records show Ms Trolle relocated to Denmark. The defence asked Ms Trolle about her round the world holidays. Ms Trolle (who I believe is an averagely paid OT therapist) said she funded those trips herself by the sale of her home in Scotland.

The defence put it to her that it was inconceivable that she was the only person who allegedly had affairs with Sheridan who had not been offered money by the NOTW.

Ms Trolle also insists any contact with her by the NOTW after the libel trial was just about the libel appeal not the perjury investigation.

In his testimony Mr. Bird stated that contrary to Ms Trolles testimony she was OFFERS were made by the NOTW.

Simply put if there was full transparency of these matters the jury could then make a decision about whether Mr Bird or Ms Trolle is telling the truth or not.

Currently they simply do not know what happened as the key Crown witnesses disagree on this vital matter despite both being on oath.

If the evidence from these witnesses goes to the jury the Lockerbie appealgrounds apply here - No ?

NB: Purely as a point of law I say there is no real difference between a witness actually being paid money and being advised that money or other things are always available in the future.

Anonymous said...

"the fate of a young family" - lol its a court of law - not the social work department. it's the duty of the court to determine guilt or innocence. His Lordship can then request psychological and social enquiry reports prior to sentencing.

Anonymous said...

I'm not casting guilt or innocence on the Sheridans in anyway whatsoever, but anyone who is guilty of an offence should think about "the fate of their young family" before they go ahead and commit the crime.

Whatsy said...

@Peter Purely as a point of law I say there is no real difference between a witness actually being paid money and being advised that money or other things are always available in the future.

This is great news. I had not previously been aware that all these e-mails I receive promising me money were legally no different to actually receiving the money.


Sceptic said...

I think what Peter was saying Whatsy is that knowing you will get money after the case is as good a reason to lie as getting it in advance.

The Firm said...

Yeah, don't worry Sceptic, we'll make sure you are all right.

Peter said...

Whatsy those unsolicited offers from Nigerian princes are "phish" but if you forward me £200K with a £50K straightener for a "community project" I am involved in with some local "youths" I will send you a video that explains it.

Offers from national newspapers to witnesses are treated somewhat more seriously than emails from single Russian ladies unfortuately. In terms of the law it is the same unfortunately Whatsy. But you can have that advice for free and keep your clothes on.

Check out:

Contempt of Court Act 1981

Solicitors Code of Conduct as amended 2009 (Rule 11)

Editors Code of Practice (Rule 15)

I do not say it happened in this case far from it but IF such offers are made by authorised agents (even a few times removed in different countries) then the fact that any "newspaper" has the means; motive; declared intent; and record of actual payments to other witnesses and various international offices as a means for laundering such payments to witnesses I would, if I was a Crown prosecutor, be very careful to ensure my witnesses were kosher.

I should have been clearer of course and explained that it is not just my opinion - the law and the relevant code of practice cover the matter of offers quite clear as well.

As I understand it breaches of the Codes of Practice regarding offers to witnesses, whilst not criminal offences in themselves, can be quoted persuasively in legal proceedings for Contempt of Court (depending when the offers were made).

Mr Bird has to a certain extent pushed the matter upstairs to Andy Coulson as according to the House of Commons Select Committee and this trial the slush fund was getting tapped out.

Anonymous said...

what's it with TS and "young family"... him and Gail are 46! nearly 50!

former ssp said...

i would suspect there's money involved afte the case whatever the outcome

If Sheridan wins then expect a few spreads for the Daily Record

if he loses, then expect an Alan McCombes book...

another former ssp said...

so what's the best way to avoid the Daily Record spread and the Alan McCoombe book? Does it have to one or the other, can it be both or neither because I guess this is what a lot of people are really worried about.

Whatsy said...

Have you considered Flamingoland?

Anonymous said...

Another Former SSP.

The simple answer is to not buy into any of the above, no worries.

Max said...

Hi James,

probably staring me in face but can you give your e-mail?

James Doleman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.