Friday, November 12, 2010
Bob Bird, Cross-examination Pt 2
When court resumed after lunch Mr Sheridan opened by asking Mr Bird if he recalled when he became aware that there was a criminal investigation into alleged perjury at the 2006 libel case between Tommy Sheridan and the News of the World (NotW) Mr Bird replied that the judge at the end of that case had called for a police investigation into the contrary evidence given, but that he had heard nothing more until his paper had published their story on the McNeilage Tape (in October 2006) Mr Sheridan then asked the witness if he was aware of the contents of his paper, to which Mr Bird replied "most of the time" Mr Sheridan then produced a copy of the NotW from the 20th August 2006 and asked the witness to turn to the story headed "Minutes."
The story read in part "A force insider said they wanted to discover anything added or taken away. Barbara [Scott] said during the trial she did not have the notes but after the trial had ended we can reveal she discovered them and handed them to police. The perjury probe is expected to last three months, Strathclyde police are also involved." Mr Bird said that the story showed a "probe had started" but that they were gathering evidence for their own appeal against the libel verdict. He added that it would "appear" he had known about a police probe but "didn't remember." Mr Sheridan responded "don't take us for fools" to which Mr Bird replied "we were not involved."
Mr Sheridan then asked about the "force insider" quoted in the article and asked if this would have been a police officer. Mr Bird replied that the phrase had come from the reporter and he assumed it was a contact in the police force. He added however that he had no contact with any police officer. Mr Sheridan then asked if the paper would have paid this force insider. Mr Bird stated that it was not normal practice for the paper to pay police officers and that "to his knowledge" the paper had never paid one.
Mr Sheridan then returned to the question of payments offered to Katrine Trolle (for the initial discussion of this issue see Part One ) Mr Sheridan asked Mr Bird why he had never mentioned this in any of his nine police statements. To which Mr Bird responded that he had only been reminded of it lately but said he had told police that he "had got that wrong" in 2006. Mr Bird added that he had not informed the court of his mistake as the trial had ended shortly after and he had not had the chance.
Mr Sheridan then moved on to the details of payments of witnesses and asked Mr Bird to take into account payments made not just by NotW Scotland but by News International as a whole. He began by asking if all payments had been disclosed to the defence, to which Mr Bird replied "if you asked for them" He began by asking how much Anne Colvin had received, Mr Bird replied £1000 for loss of earnings and a contract for £7000 on publication. Ms Colvin was also paid £2000 for a "lie detector test" after the 2006 trial. Mr Sheridan then asked about another witness Helen Alison and Mr Bird told the court that her payments would be the same as Ms Colvin's. Mr Sheridan then asked if Ian Massie had been paid by the NotW? Mr Bird told the court he may have had a "few hundred for helping with enquiries" Mr Sheridan then asked if Louise and Tony Cumberbirtch had received a payment, Mr Bird said they had not. Mr Sheridan asked if the witness would be surprised if Louise Cumberbirch had been told that £20,000 might be available, Mr Bird said yes, he would be surprised to hear that. Mr Bird also told the court he would be "surprised" that George Wallace had told police that a NotW reporter had asked him to get in touch with the Cumberbirches and tell them there was £20,000 available.
Mr Sheridan then turned to Fiona McGuire and asked about how much the NotW had paid her. Mr Bird said that she had been paid £20,000 plus further money for loss of earnings and other expenses. Mr Sheridan asked if this was before or after the civil trial, Mr Bird said the £20,000 was before the 2006 trial, the rest after adding that she was "sending us bills" He also admitted that the paper had paid for flying lessons for Ms McGuire, for three weeks in a hotel during the case and for a holiday in Dubai.
Mr Sheridan then turned to the 2007 discovery of a listening device in his car and asked Mr Bird if he had been interviewed by the police about it. Mr Bird denied he or his newspaper had planted the device and said he had been called by the police about it. He further stated he was not cautioned by the police officer who called him and was not asked to sign a statement. Mr Sheridan then put it to Mr Bird that the NotW practised "cheque book journalism" and that people who had "smelled the big money would be prepared to say anything." Mr Sheridan claimed that the culture at the newspaper was one of "publish anything as the subjects would not have the resources to go to court" Mr Bird denied this.
Mr Sheridan then gave some examples of cases where, he claimed, the NotW had published false stories that had "ruined people's lives" the Advocate Depute objected to this line of questioning stating that these were "collateral matters" that had no bearing on the case. Lord Bracadale overruled this objection but as Mr Sheridan wished to introduce another matter the jury was asked to leave the court while this was discussed. When the jury returned, and with the time nearing 4pm, Lord Bracadale adjourned the case until Monday and the court rose for the weekend.
Posted by James Doleman at 10:43 PM