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.

77 comments:

The Lumpen Sociologist said...

Mr Sheridan then asked if the paper would have paid this force insider.


was there an answer and what am I doing here on a Friday night.

James Doleman said...

Sorry that bit must have vanished for some reason, fixed now.

Jessica Fletcher P.I. said...

1986 William Clements, Jr. gubernatorial campaign

In 1986, Rove helped Clements become governor a second time. In a strategy memo Rove wrote for his client prior to the race, now among Clements's papers in the Texas A&M University library, Rove quoted Napoleon: "The whole art of war consists in a well-reasoned and extremely circumspect defensive, followed by rapid and audacious attack."

In 1986, just before a crucial debate in campaign, Rove claimed that his office had been bugged by Democrats. The police and FBI investigated and discovered that the bug's battery was so small that it needed to be changed every few hours, and the investigation was dropped.[22] Critics, including other Republican operatives, suspected Rove had bugged his own office to garner sympathy votes in the close governor's race.[23]

Anonymous said...

The Lumpen Socialist.

what am I doing here on a Friday night.

Because the truth is out there

Psyche said...

James, I had really wanted to be in court today but was unable to get there.

Thanks for doing such a fantastic job as there would be no other way to keep up to speed with events. The mainstream media should hang their heads in shame.

Tommy trial addict said...

First post.

James, this blog is a brilliant piece of journalism.

Your shorthand must also be exceptional.

Jessica – nice quote.

Never heard about that before. Rove really was a master of the black arts. Makes Alastair Campbell, Peter Mandelson and Charlie Whelan look like amateurs.

Is Sheridan really in Rove's league though?

Is it outwith the realms of possibility that the NOTW would use a secretly-placed camera or a voice recorder to garner a story.

Clandestine activity of some form or another seems to be a hallmark of many of their front page splashes.

The Lumpen Sociologist said...

But Mr Bird, 54, admitted his "blood ran cold" when George McNeilage revealed he had been Sheridan's best man.

Was he supplied with clean underpants?

Anonymous said...

"The mainstream media should hang their heads in shame."

Yup. I was in court on Friday afternoon and only a handful of the 40-odd 'journalists' present were penning anything. If they are failing to make any shorthand notes of proceedings, then can someone please explain why these chocolate fireguards are afforded the privilege of a reserved pew?

Clerk of the Court: please take note!

Dementia Rules said...

What now happens to Crown witnesses who have misled the Jury i.e. Khan and Trolle? According to this upload both were given or offered money, both denied this during their evidence.

Jackanory said...

Mainstream media don't need to take notes - they are not there to actually report what is going on in the court, this is what this blog is for - they can just go away and make a story up.

CB said...

Anon
Maybe the journalists have total recall, and don't need to pen anything. Unlike some of the witnesses in this case!

Jessica Fletcher P.I. said...

I'm sorry boys. Did that mention of Karl Rove take the wind out of some of your sails?

Oh. I'm really sorry.

Anonymous said...

Dementia Rules. Re what happens?

In all probability nothing will happen the focus in all this has been on one individual who has allegedly lied.
In a orwelian world it would appear your lie bad our lies good.
It gives a new insight to singing from the same hymn sheet, who cares if you miss a note and get it wrong just get the song sung.

Peter said...

These comments relate soley to the process of a fair trial in the context of evidence already given about NOTW contact with Crown witnesses. As such I consider they do not impinge on the moderators comments policy.

------------------

Mr. Bird claims the contacts offers of payment and actual payments by the NOTW before and after the libel trial should not affect this perjury trial. Any discussions were only about the NOTW libel trial and appeal. Any payments were only for stories or expenses in the libel trial or its aftermath.

Notwithstanding the difficulty that this part of his evidence creates for the progress of the NOTW libel appeal I suggest the admissions by Mr. Bird also create for Lord Bracdale a serious problem.

If it could be clear who was contacted by the NOTW and what was offered or paid to what are now Crown witnesses it may be possible, even at this late stage, to clean up this matter to ensure a fair trial.

But various parties have now either denied payments, the offers of payments or undereported the amount of payments only for the NOTW editor to now admit payment or the offers of payment.

The matter is thus much more complicated.

Lord Bracdale could therefore reasonably be asked by the defence to consider whether all the Crown witnesses who had been contacted by the NOTW regarding the libel matter should be recalled to establish the facts.

Of course it is perfectly possible to give truthful evidence and also to have been offered money or paid money by the NOTW in relation to the libel matter.

The parties could simply be called back in and asked to explain the facts regarding the contacts so the jury can be aware of those contacts.

But in light of some parties not admitting, when under oath in the libel trial and this trial, that they were offered money when Mr Bird says they were then how can Lord Bracdale to be sure that he can properly establish what has occurred,

It could be argued these matters could be left for final submissions to the jury. The veracity of the witnesses can in that sense is left for the jury.

Unfortunately as all the libel appeal issues at the very least bleed over into the perjury trial (and perhaps are even inseparable) it appears that Mr. Sheridan’s right to a fair trial has been impinged (perhaps fatally) by the widespread contact with the Crown witnesses by the NOTW regarding the libel appeal.

TBC
Peter

Peter said...

The judge to ensure a fair trial can of course instruct the jury to disregard the evidence of any parties who were paid or offered payment by the NOTW or contacted by the NOTW.

That would be fair to Mr. and Mrs. Sheridan. But perhaps that is itself an inadequate response.
According to Mr Bird the contact by the NOTW was so widespread (and various parties are so at odds about whom and who has not been paid or offered money or payments in kind) that the defence may reasonably regard that it is not safe to put the evidence of the Crown witnesses before the jury at all.

So widespread are those admitted contacts and payments and offers of payments made by the NOTW (before and after the perjury investigation started) that the grounds for a procedural motion to disbar the evidence of those witnesses from consideration by the jury must now be substantial.


If the judge allows the evidence of the affected Crown witnesses to be considered by the jury then it may be grounds for appeal if there is a guilty verdict.

The explanation that the contacts, payments and offers of payment made were only in relation to the libel appeal or for newspaper copy I suggest is not sufficient excuse.

Peter said...

Cont.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of this matter Mr. & Mrs. Sheridan are entitled to a fair trial wholly untainted by the deep pockets of News of the World. A trail of contacts and payments to Crown witnesses regarding another closely connected matter (i.e., the libel case and the appeal) appears at the least to undermine the appearance of a fair trial.
Even Mr. Sheridan's opponents must admit that they would not wish themselves to face witnesses who have been paid or offered payment or had discussions about other matters (in this case the libel appeal) that are closely related to criminal charges.
I will make further comments about the witnesses who appear not paid or offered money or contacted by the NOTW at another time. In brief, however,I suggest that the court process has been so tainted by the NOTW actions in contacting witnesses about the libel trial appeal, who now also appear in this perjury trial for the Crown, that any decision either - for guilt or innocence - will be so tainted that even if there are other witnesses who were not contacted any verdict will be unsafe.
Firstly a jury faced with witnesses who have been offered money may be tempted to disregard ALL witnesses especially if (as in this case) evidence emerges that some witnesses have been paid or offered money previously but have denied it on oath. Secondly they may not be aware that witnesses have been paid, or offered the promise of payment. As it is now very unclear who and who has not been paid or offered payment how can a jury establish who is tainted or not unless there is a full police investigation.
In that sense any decision from a jury (for guilt or innocence) would be the fruit of the poisoned tree. The tree was poisoned as soon as actual money and the chance of money was circulated by the NOTW around the potential witness both BEFORE and AFTER the start of the perjury investigation.

The only way I can see around this matter is for the court itself (via a direct enquiry by the police) to establish exactly who and who has not been contacted, offered or paid money by the NOTW. That would require a lengthy adjournment, and may involve people who are overseas or difficult to contact or indeed unwilling to cooperate with the police, a mistrial may be the only outcome.
Of course if that is a decision of the judge the Crown may decide to continue the matter or drop the charges.
Peter

Anonymous said...

The quality of this comprehensive coverage of the trial is superb, truly a revelation in significant ways.

It reveals the cursory coverage provided by mainstream media, as a result of which the general public remains largely uninformed about the deeper implications of evidential matters. The public therefore looks at headline coverage of ostensibly perverse verdicts and concludes "they're all the same."

In that sense the media can accurately be accused of using half stories to sell soap adverts.

The detailing of all the evidence here is opening up minds, certainly this mind, about the various forces and motives present in this trial.

The blog may well act as a watershed for the reporting of all trials in future.

Very well done.

Big Maggie said...

never trust a man with close set eyes.

Campbell McGregor said...

The defence has not so far asked for the evidence of any witness to be declared legally inadmissable, I suggest that we (and the judge) should deal with this issue when it arises. I may be wrong, but I think Katrine Trolle said that she had been offered money for her story by the NoW but turned them down. She did acknowledge that the NoW had put her up in a hotel in Edinburgh for a few days during the civil trial, but this could have been legitimate, and she was open about this when it was raised with her.

Sceptic said...

You are wrong Campbell, Katrine Trolle denied ever having been offered any money both to Tommy Sheridan and to Paul McBride.

Opinions are fine, bit lets not make up our own facts.

James Doleman said...

SCeptic is correct, from my note of Ms Trolle's cross-examination

"Finally Mr Sheridan asked if Ms Trolle had been offered money for her story from the NotW in any of her three encounters with one of their journalists, Andrea Vance. The witness stated she had not been offered or had taken any money from anyone for her story. Mr Sheridan asked her that in light of payments given to other witnesses in the case, "life changing amounts of money" as he put it, that it was ridiculous for her to claim she had never been offered a payment. The witness continued to insist that she had never been offered and more importantly had never accepted a penny for her story.

And

"The witness was then asked if she agrees that if a multi-national corporation wanted to to give someone money that they could "disguise" that by, for example using a foreign bank account or "paying for trips"? to which she said they possibly could. She was also asked about being put up in a luxury hotel in Edinburgh by News International. The witness again denied she had ever been offered or taken any payment for her story. Mr Sheridan told that other crown witnesses had taken money from the NotW and there was a "pattern" The witness however again insisted she had not taken a "single penny"

Magnum P.I. said...

Jessica Fletcher P.I. "I'm sorry boys. Did that mention of Karl Rove take the wind out of some of your sails?

Oh. I'm really sorry."

lol, Jessica, you should know better than to go around teasing the boys.


Magnum P.I.xx

CB said...

Jessica

Why should boys, or for that matter girls, be disturbed by the revelation that Karl Rove is a stinker?

Legally challenged said...

Peters comprehensive comment has opened up a number of issues around the murky waters that the NoTW sail in and those who have swam along side them.
This trial has the markings of an never ending story,could it be possible that Lothian and Borders police might now embark on an investigation on claims of Perjury from this Perjury trial.
Or can it be that charges of Perjury is dependant on not what could be classed as Perjured evidence but in who the alleged Perjurer is.

Peter said...

What is now without doubt following Mr Bird's testimony is that it has bee confirmed that large amounts of money and offers of money and payments in kind were circulating around the pool of Crown witnesses before and during the perjury investigation.

As there have been relatively few perjury trials of this scale (certainly not ones involving such widespread offers of money to the pool of Crown witnesses) we may be on new legal territory.

The general principle of course is that witnesses should not be suborned by interested parties even if it is under the guise of innocent contact about other matters i.e the libel appeal in this matter.

I say simply that the pool of Crown witnesses is contaminated simply by the offer of life changing amounts of money being offered (and in McNeialge's case paid) to the pool of what became important Crown witnesses and that this trial is therefore fatally flawed.

The fac that there are perhaps some uncontaminated Crown witnesses does not alter the fact that money offers were made to many others.

I am not saying the NOTW were buying testimony in the libel appeal or the perjury matter - far from it.

I simply say that the act of circulation of money and the offers of money around the pool contaminates these proceedings.

When major crown witnesses then deny such offers -when Mr Bird himself admits they were made- it raises an even more serious concern.

I think it may be useful for someone with experience of Scottish criminal practice to explain to the forum what level of contamination (or perceived contamination) there must be of a pool of Crown witnesses before a prosecution is abandoned as unsafe by the Crown or that a mistrial is declared by the judge.

I fully accept that the judge may feel that the bar to be reached is very high.

I accept the judge may therefore just go to the jury to sort out but trials have been abandoned due to witness contamination.

So has the tipping point of contamination been reached yet?

Anonymous said...

regarding katrine trolles evidence my recolection of it is she never admitted getting offered money,but i remember thimking at the time if TS pressed her a bit more she would of admitted it

Anonymous said...

Peter,

You've spent a long time typing all that, but not much time thinking about it.

No sign that this case is going to collapse.

Anonymous said...

@ Peter - this stuff is about money is a bit of a distraction though, and it is really at the Court's discretion and the Jury's judgement, as to what bearing it lends to the determination of the charges laid against the Sheridans.

Anonymous said...

Peter, you may as well say that one of the witnesses is "going to sell" their story after the trial is over - how many times does that happen?

Sceptic said...

"this stuff is about money is a bit of a distraction"

I bet most of us would find 200,000 quid a bit distracting too.

Anonymous said...

But then again Sceptic, it's whether the tape is genuine or not that is the issue, , it wouldn't make any difference if GMcN had been paid £1 million by Maggie Thatcher for it.

Sceptic said...

Anon the money does have a role in the judgement of the tape's veracity, If GM had handed it over to the SSP or to the police that's one thing. The fact that he sold it for a large sum of money could be seen to cast doubt on his motives, and hence his tape.

Sceptic said...

If, hypothetically, TS had paid his defence witnesses 10 grand each and someone who gave him an alibi 200k would you regard that as important Anon?

Anonymous said...

yes, sceptic, but can I remind you that what we are looking at here is crown witnesses, not news of the world witnesses.

it's all very reassuring for you, endlessly hypothesising about how, with a single bound, your hero will be free. but you're kidding yourself.

the jury is being asked whether Tommy Sheridan lied in court.

all the stuff you and peter mention is hooey.

Peter said...

Of course Anon I must anaylyse my own comments and I must in that anaylsis confess to a certain amount of "wishful thinking" but on the other hand consider this.

To clarify my previous comments about a mistrial (and perhaps preempt a further attack on my reasoning - which I don't mind at all by the way) may I say that in as much as it only became clear that Crown witnesses were not revealing that they had been paid or offered payment by the NOTW (in relation to the libel matters and for their NOTW stories) during their TESTIMONY it would clearly not have been possible for these matters to have been dealt with adequately in any pre - trial discussions.

There was obviously some clear suspicion of such offers by the defence and some information from police statements and the evidence in the libel trial.

Now, however, there is DIRECT proof in the form of testimony from the party making the offers and payments ie. Bob Bird of News International/News Corp/NOTW.

That is further contextualised by the denials of Crown witnesses that such offers were made.

So a picture emerges.

Not a very pretty one for the Crown but one that the defence is entitled to exploit at a time of its choosing.

That proof provides the evidential basis for an application.

How the defence deals with that puts us now into the realms of tactics and timing.

They would of course be wise not to put all their egss in one basket and of course as they can clearly still win this case anyway (on reasonable doubt)a mistrial may not be a good option anyway.

The restrictions of court reporting are such that if applications for a mistrial are made in the absence of the jury or in closed session they may not be revealed and we may not hear about them if they are rejected.

In fact only if the defence appeal rejection of an application to a higher court would the initial application be reported - as I understand it. That's all a long way off anyway and will come to our attention anyway if their is a Guilty verdict.

(Maybe an application has already been made and rejected but the parties in court cannot reveal it.)

But if such an application has not yet been made I suspect one is presently warming nicely on the stove.

When I run a case (admittedly civil cases at a much lower level) I have a variety of applications ready to go if I suspect their is witnesses collusion or tampering with evidence etc.

I am not saying this happended here by the way.

Some applications succeed some do not. But as long as they are well founded they can be tactically useful.

Especially if the Crown insists on presenting a set of witnesses who have been offered “life changing” sums of money and payments in kind by the NOTW I expect a robust application to be put before the judge at some point.

TBC:

Anonymous said...

what's thatcher got to do with this - she left office in the 1980s!

Anonymous said...

(Maybe an application has already been made and rejected but the parties in court cannot reveal it.), now you're taking sense. "Motions for dismissal of charges" occur in trials every time someone farts.

Anonymous said...

I'd reckon that all the arguments for/against this tapes inclusion as an exhibit have already been argued out in court, that's what normally happens anyway.

Anonymous said...

As far as the court is concerned it has been obtained LEGALLY, say it had been obtained as the result of an ILLEGAL search, in those circumstances it would most likely be ruled out as an exhibit.

Anonymous said...

Don't be daft Anon 5:26... large sections of the country and whole communities are still reeling from the effect of Thatcher's evil anf brutal polices. Lest we forget!

Anonymous said...

@ Peter what about Criminal Injury Compensation - motivation for telling lies? making up stories? and more to the point these arguments can't be used as a defence. Wishful thinking - indeed.

Anonymous said...

what would be the likely outcome if the judge ruled a mistrial?

James Doleman said...

I don't think it is very likely, if it did happen however the Crown would have to decide if they wanted to have a fresh trial or drop the case.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing to suggest a mistrial here.


It's time some people started asking questions about the indignity of blind loyalty.

Peter said...

I had not raised the matter of the video tape in that sense. Indeed that tape would have been the subject of the pre - trial motions on admissibility.

It has been admitted so far, and depending on future evidence about it, it may still well be put to the jury for consideration.

Indeed McNeialge readily admitted payment for it so he is in the clear - as long he has admitted the right amount and has told the truth regarding the distribution of his gains.

So with respect to some posters here the admissibility of the video evidence is perhaps a distraction (or a straw man) in response to my main points about the contamination of the wider witness pool and the specific and important revelations about the key crown witnesses Ms Trolle and Ms Khan now revealed by Mr Bird. TBC

Peter said...

Hello Anon. 5.48

Thanks for your comment. Regarding the CIC matter I am not quite sure what your point is - please elaborate.

Coincidentally I am currently assisitng 2 people with CIC claims.

I have of course advised them that the claims must be truthful (and be in compliance with the other terms of the CIC scheme) and the claimant must sign the claim as truthful.

If they are telling porkies about how their injuries came about to try and get a bit of cash (and more practically if they slip up and get found out) they will of course only have themsleves to blame.

On the subject of porkies, I would if I was representing Mr and Mrs S, put it to the jury that they should be disinclined to believe Ms Trolle and Ms Khan as (according to Mr Bird) they have told a series of untruths in this perjury trial and in the libel trial about their contacts with the NOTW cheque book journalists.

If you do not regard exposing Ms Trolle's and Ms Khan's evidence as part of an acceptable "defence" for Mr & Mrs Sheridan you may of course be technically right but effectively (and where it matters most) still be wrong.

Until perjury is disproven you know that the defence will seek to use this discrepancy to their advantage.

More power to them.

A jury member may believe or disbelieve these Crown witnesses for a number of reasons even if perjury has not been proven in a legal sense ie. following due investigation and court proceedings.

Crown witnesses being caught out telling untruths about an important related matter is a reasonable grounds to disbelieve the Crown witnesses about the evidence of sexual relations and the other indictments.

If the Crown witnesses are perjurers or not is not for this jury but the effect of severe discrepancies in evidence is still there.

if we were not beig all polite about this we would say that the allegation of perjury has effectively already been put by the defence to numerous Crown witnesses (with a few caveats) so the judge is giving a lot of leeway already.

I would agree that until perjury is proven or not such allegations will need to be carefully formulated by the defence.

I agree that Ms Trolle and Ms Khan are innocent until proven guilty.

They also have the right to silence but perhaps unfortunately for them not at this stage if they are recalled to the stand.

IMHO!

the_voice_of_reason said...

Peter:

There is a distinction between questions of admissibility of evidence, which as a matter of law is for the judge, and Credibility or reliability, which are maters of fact falling within the province of the jury.

It is standard in every case where it is alleged that witnesses are lying or mistaken that the trial judge charges the jury that they may accept some, all, or none of a witness's testimony.

It is, for example open to jurors to regard giving false evidence about offers of payment as tainting their evidence utterly. On the other hand, jurors may regard that falsehood as not affecting the veracity of evidence on key issues such as the existence of a sexual relationship and where sexual activity took place.

So far as CICA claims are concerned, it is still permissible, although not often used, for the defence to allege in a trial for say sexual abuse that the complainer has lied in order to obtain Criminal Injuries Compensation. It is permissible to ask the question, although doing so is massively risky.

Incidentally, if Ms Trolle and Ms Khan are recalled to the stand, having sworn at the ouset to tell the "whole truth", and being called as Crown witnesses, they do not have a right to silence merely because it may be the case that their previous testimony in answer to questions from the defence was not wholly truthful.

the_voice_of_reason said...

Incidentally, we do not have "mistrials" in Scottish criminal procedure. In certain circumstances where a fair trial becomes impossible the trial judge may desert the indictment pro loco et tempore, which allows the Crown the option to re-raise proceedings if they see fit.

Once a trial has started it's rarely used, and in practice only arises if there is proven misconduct by a juror (well over 25 years ago I remember a trial being halted when a juror made a comment about the strength of the case to a defence lawyer, when only two days of evidence had been heard), or where the jury become aware of something they should not know, such as a previous conviction/sentence, as a result of a witness volunteering information that goes beyond answering the question asked.

In this case, the issue of whether witnesses have lied about being offered money goes only to credibility, and would not offer Alistair Campbell any reason to bring the trial to an end. After all, the issue was put to the witnesses in cross-examination, and it was suggested that they weren't truthful, so it would be absurd if evidence bolstering the defence case could result in the trial being deserted.

Peter said...

Anon 6.48 predisposed bias cuts both ways of course.

Actually I have my own views of what has occurred. Those views of course are wholly irrelevant and would not be allowed on this blog anyway.

Less sensitively I can say that I have a lot of respect for a number of the SSP members who have appeared for the Crown - at least those regarding some of those who were in Militant with me.

I also have a lot of respect for TS.

I do admit to having a lot less respect for some of the SSP members than others.

The SSP members who (unforced) went to the police after the libel trial, those who released of the existence of "minutes" to the press and those who took money from the NOTW are in that negative category.

But I do not have grudge against them. Not really in my nature. They were very wrong in my view - that is all.

Members who were “forced”, as they put it, to give evidence for the Crown obviously get more of a pass although the manner of giving evidence gives me some concern.

I consider all the possible outcomes in this matter to be defeats.

I also do not consider that TS should have taken a libel action - even if everything the NOTW said was wholly untrue and hurtful.

On balance I believe all sides of the left in Scotland and the UK will be best served by a Not Guilty verdict for reasons it is not necessary to elaborate here.

I am perhaps therefore more evenly balanced than you may think?

Expressing a desire for a Not Guilty / Not Proven verdict I would not say could make me blindly loyal to TS.

I suggest many others around the world would like to see that outcome as well.

But I will keep the possibility that I am blindly loyal (if the charge was directed at me) under consideration. Thanks. Peter.

Peter said...

Voice Of Reason.

Thanks for clarifying your CIC point. Interesting but not exactly dealing with my main 3 points which I will repost later.

We do agree (I think!)on the right to silence point.

At the end of my post you will note that I did state that (perhaps unfortunately for Ms Trolle and Ms Khan) they would not be able to rely on the right to silence to avoid possible self incrimination if they were to be recalled to the stand.

And I think I have also made it very clear that the matter can certainly still be put before the jury.

Other options are certainly available depending on the level of contamination of the witness pool.

Putting my civics head on (Worzel Gummidge like) and putting it very bluntly I say dirty trials and the appearance of dirty trials must be avoided.

They can only be avoided if the judge, jury, defence and prosecution opening up the matter of who has been paid and who has been offered payment or advancement by powerful interest groups.

Do we yet know that?

My political head says that is naive to hope for that level of transparency but it often loses out to my civics head so I raise it anyway.

Fred the Shred said...

Talk about adding 2 + 2 and coming up with 149!!

Katrina Trolle may have been offered money by the News o' the Screws but Bob Bird said she did not accept it. If Tommy in his cross examination didn't bring that out then really that's Tommy's fault. She can't be judged for being offered money when she didn't take it or speak to them!

Anvar Khan worked for News International and appears to have been trying to negotiate a new contract with her employers - not quite the same as selling her story to the NOTW, is it. The other people who received payments from the NOTW did so after the libel trial.

It doesn't mean because they received money from NOTW that they are being paid to perjure themselves and give false evidence, it takes the "plot" to a new level!

If Tommy had not gone for the libel case then good, bad and indifferent people would not be in court trying to give their version of events. This for me is why I don't think there is a plot because of the versions given, no one's evidence is exactly the same - there doesn't seem to be evidence of much collaboration from the witnesses.

Peter said...

Voice Of Reason.

I think we are getting somewhere now.

Could you clarify if your position (in extremis) is that the Scottish courts set the "mistrial" bar so high that once a trial has started even if it is shown that each Crown witness were offered large amounts of money by a powerful interested party it would not prevent this matter being put before the jury as knowledge of such payments could just be weighed in the balance by the jury?

If the jury then found the defendant guilty he/she would then just have to suck it up as the jury had made its decision.

And you are saying (again my emphasis) on a more general point and not related to this trial at all limited point that in Scotland if it is shown that witnesses who have taken money in return for their evidence may well have to face the consequences for that matter at a later point but there is no grounds for preventing that purchased evidence reaching the jury.

The logic for that approach is apparently that it would help the defence anyway for the jurors to hear evidence from a person that they knew had been brought and paid for by those powerful interests.

Not being facetious here but just trying (in a slighty studenty debating hall type of way) to test where the tipping point is in Scotland if indeed there is one!

legally Challenged said...

Qoute

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 overuled 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.

Perhaps the matters under discussion may become apparent once the court returns on Monday. As a complete lay person with regards to matters of evidence, I would be very concerned that the possibility of some witnesses statements being contaminated with their involvement with the NoTW

Peter said...

Posters may wish to compare and contrast the offers of payment to witnesses in Lockerbie Case to the payments in the Sheridan Case.

In light of the revelations in Bob Birds evidence last week about contacts with, payments to and offers of payments to what became Crown witnesses is a fair trial still possible?

That I suggest is now the central question in this trial.

I fully take on board the comments of other posters that my view of the matter is biased.

Nevertheless I do continue to suggest that any guilty verdict arising from the evidence of a pool of witnesses who have been paid or offered life changing amounts of money and / or career advancement will be “unsafe”.

My personal desire for a Not Guilty / Not Proven verdict does not make those large payments and offers of future payments go away.

Rather than waiting for an appeal I have suggested that the defence may wish push the issue by way of an application for a “mistrial” or the Scottish equivalent sooner rather than later to stop this farce in its tracks.

Track back on my comments for a fuller explanation.

There are some posters who consider such applications by a defence to be “two a penny” and generally worthless.

They consider such an application will automatically fail as the judge will always want this matter to go to a jury. I take their point.

With respect to those posters similar points to those I raise about money were also possibly going to be used as appeal grounds in the Lockerbie appeal. The defence were going to highlight the deep pockets of the DoJ in that matter rather than the NOTW.

Those points were presumably going to be raised in that appeal by Tommy Sheridans ex-QC Maggie Scott who was taking the Lockerbie appeal. I have other examples as well.

So I suggest my points about offers to witnesses could well have some legal merit as well as ethical merit.

My following post will sum up the three main points I have been raising.

I will then leave my comments there until the end of this weeks evidence - which will be a relief to some of you no doubt!

www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/oct/02/abdelbaset-megrahi-documents-lockerbie-witness

TBC

Whatsy said...

Peter
Interesting points raised by you so far - keep them coming.

As I'm sure you're aware, al-Megrahi was prosecuted by Alistair Campbell QC, now Lord Bracadale, so he should have some experience of the rights and wrongs of payments to witnesses.

Peter said...

Fred the Shred 10.47pm

A cursory glance at my posts does, however, show that I am not saying evidence has been directly purchased in the sense you imply.

Again that is perhaps a "straw man" to deflect my main argument about contamination of the Crown witness pool by the deep pockets of the NOTW.

My 3 main points which I will post shortly will make that clear. I cannot, however, let the Trolle matter pass as it is much too juicy.

What lies within the deepening crack in testimony regarding offers of payments provided by two key Crown witnesses Bird and Trolle?

I have my own view of what has likely gone on here but I fear it will fall foul of the moderator if I express it. Maybe we will find out if Ms Trolle is recalled.

Bird has admitted now that various payments and offers were made to what are now Crown witnesses both before the libel trial and AFTER the judge at the libel trial announced the need for a perjury investigation. Revealing in itself.

But more so is that as a major Crown witness Ms Trolle has twice, under oath, denied any such offers.

Who's account is right - Mr Bird or Ms Trolle? Or perhaps neither.

The David Mamet line in The Untouchables "Who would claim to be that,who was not?" comes to mind.

Contextualised the gap between these two accounts is very revealing.

I play a lot of poker. Half of the game is keeping your losses to a minimum if you are holding a losing hand.

Mr Bird did well by getting out of the pot before it got too big.

Ms Trolle now has a decision to make about her own hand.

On the wider point about witness contamination I say if you create a cess pool and then put your hand in a few years later you may well find you pull out some unpleasant things.

It's not reasonable to think we are conspiracy theorists for pointing out the nasty things that are now floating to the top of the cess pool now that the defence has stirred it up with a big stick!

Anonymous said...

It is reasonable, however to say that you are speculating wildly and that the likeliest turn of events is that this will run to the end and a jury will be asked to decide whether Sheridan and his wife lied under oath.

Looking forward to the verdict.

Johnboy said...

I'm pretty sure that no payments will have been directly offered to potential witnesses after the perjury case became active, when the Sheridans were charged.
Bottom line is: Are the witnesses telling the truth?
TS has chipped away at the credibility of one or two.
But that leaves a LOT of evidence.

Peter said...

Anonymous 2.59

Thanks for that.

I would say touche but as I have (as you do) already said in earlier posts (repeatedly) that the judge could just leave it to the jury to sort out the whole sorry mess of witness contamination for themselves I will not.

Mostly I have been outlining the background that could provide the basis for a mistrial.

That view is based on the evidence so far revealed. So I sugggest that is more opinion rather than speculation.

The tactics that the defence will adopt to deal with that witness contamination (perhaps by a mistrial application) is I agree "speculation" as perhaps wisely the defence do not consult me.

The Court of Appeal judgment in the Rose West appeal nicely sums up the overhwelming confidence that judges have in a jury to weigh up evidence in even the most stressful of circumstances.

Interesting also that the dangers of cheque book journalist embroiling themselves with what became key witnesses in that case very nearly could have led to a perverse outcome to that case.

If you read that West judgment I suggest you avoid the gory details (that is a genuine warning) and just go to the last few paragraphs at end of the judgment.

My point about the growing evidence of the extent of the contamination of the witness pool is that it appears now that there is a hidden nature to it.

For example the key Crown witnesses Mr Bird and Ms Trolle cannot agree to the extent of that influence and when that influence was exerted orif it occurred at all!

So wereas if the jury if they knew the extent of the witness contamination by the NOTW they could weigh up the evidence of those who were giving evidence how can the jury posibly weigh it up if there has not been full disclosure by the Crown of that contamination.

If someone could explain why it is apparently the sole responsibility of poor old Tommy to bring these matters out in cross examination rather than a duty on the part of the Crown to disclose them ALL TO THEIR FULL EXTENT it may help to move this part of the debate forward.

Ta. Peter.

Peter said...

Thanks Johnboy.

I may prepare a spreadsheet ( (garnered from the records from the various newspaper court reporters and James's blog) regarding who was offered money, when it was offered and how much so that should sort out your query.

I say again:

1.) any serious failure by the Crown to disclose to the defence any witness contamination (either by offers of immunity or offers of money) is a reasonable ground for a mistrial application.

2.) that if there was circulation of offers of money and advancement by the NOTW to potential Crown witnesses after the police commenced their investigation then there was a likely contempt of court under the Contempt of Court Act 1981.

Under that act:

The initial steps of criminal proceedings are:—

(a)arrest without warrant;

(b)the issue, or in Scotland the grant, of a warrant for arrest;

(c)the issue of a summons to appear, or in Scotland the grant of a warrant to cite;

(d)the service of an indictment or other document specifying the charge;

(e)except in Scotland, oral charge.


Any one disagree with my reasoning as a general starting point?

Bob Bird gave some amusing evidence the other day when he apparently told Tommmy that the record appeared to show that he knew something was going on but that he was not sure now that could recall that he knew at the time that he knew for sure anything at the various times when he may have been in contempt!

Tommy does not appear to have found it funny though and I don't blame him

Bob Bird has obviously had to explain unexplainable things to people over the years to reach that level of sophistry.

Cathal said...

No updates on todays proceedings?

James Doleman said...

Hello Cathal being worked on now.

the_voice_of_reason said...

Peter:

Once again you raise a large number of points.

Starting with your last post, and looking at the issue of contempt of court, proceedings only became "live" upon the issue of the Petition warrants. Although utterly crucial in terms of the 1981 Act, the dates they were issued are not easy to find, being absent from the BBC and "Herald" timelines. The date appears to be 27th March 2008.

Any evidence of financial offers to witnesses after that date could, if it were shown that witnesses tailored their evidence thereafter, result in contempt proceedings against the newspaper. An editor needs to be very careful. In addition, any financial offer made after the appeal was lodged following the verdict in the defamation trial and before 27th March 2008 would be highly questionable, and at least arguably also contempt, if it ould be shown to constitute an inducement to a witness in civil proceedings.

Paragraph 15 of the Editors' Code of Practice states -

"Witness payments in criminal trials
i) No payment or offer of payment to a witness
- or any person who may reasonably be
expected to be called as a witness - should
be made in any case once proceedings are
active as defined by the Contempt of Court
Act 1981.
This prohibition lasts until the suspect
has been freed unconditionally by
police without charge or bail or the
proceedings are otherwise discontinued; or
has entered a guilty plea to the court; or, in
the event of a not guilty plea, the court has
announced its verdict.
* ii) Where proceedings are not yet active but are
likely and foreseeable, editors must not
make or offer payment to any person who
may reasonably be expected to be called as a
witness, unless the information concerned
ought demonstrably to be published in the
public interest and there is an over-riding
need to make or promise payment for this to
be done; and all reasonable steps have been
taken to ensure no financial dealings
influence the evidence those witnesses give.
In no circumstances should such payment be
conditional on the outcome of a trial.
* iii) Any payment or offer of payment made to a
person later cited to give evidence in
proceedings must be disclosed to the
prosecution and defence. The witness must be advised of this requirement".

I will expand on this later tonight.

the_voice_of_reason said...

Peter: May I start by quoting from the PCC Editors' Code of Practice, Paragraph 15?

"Witness payments in criminal trials
i) No payment or offer of payment to a witness
- or any person who may reasonably be
expected to be called as a witness - should
be made in any case once proceedings are
active as defined by the Contempt of Court
Act 1981.
This prohibition lasts until the suspect
has been freed unconditionally by
police without charge or bail or the
proceedings are otherwise discontinued; or
has entered a guilty plea to the court; or, in
the event of a not guilty plea, the court has
announced its verdict.
* ii) Where proceedings are not yet active but are
likely and foreseeable, editors must not
make or offer payment to any person who
may reasonably be expected to be called as a
witness, unless the information concerned
ought demonstrably to be published in the
public interest and there is an over-riding
need to make or promise payment for this to
be done; and all reasonable steps have been
taken to ensure no financial dealings
influence the evidence those witnesses give.
In no circumstances should such payment be
conditional on the outcome of a trial.
* iii) Any payment or offer of payment made to a
person later cited to give evidence in
proceedings must be disclosed to the
prosecution and defence. The witness must be advised of this requirement"

the_voice_of_reason said...

Continuing from the above, proceedings, as I understand it, became "live" on or just before 27th March 2008, when Tommy and Gail appeared in court on petition warrants.

Any evidence of payments made after that date would fall foul of the PCC Code, and if it were shown that witnesses had changed or embellished their testimony following such payments or offers, that could give rise to proceedings for contempt. In addition, offers made after the News of the World marked an appeal and before 27th March 2008 would be extremely questionable, and could very well reflect adversely on the witness's credibility.

Anonymous said...

@ Cathal - James is making tea.

Anonymous said...

... a lot of tea lol

Fred the Shred said...

I think we can all agree where ever we stand in all of this that NOTW, News International and Bob Bird are dodgy, nasty and horrible. The work without scruples because they don't care and just want salacious stories that the public who buy their paper enjoy so much.

I have to admit reading it from time to time (for research purposes) but I can't really remember any of the stories - most of them are just puff and gore really. Who slept with who - type thing. Honestly the News of the World doing a "job on you" can't be nice but I don't think most people remember it.

But that isn't the point - NOTW are horrible, tin lid on it.

But re-reading the code of ethics as posted - not read the Contempt of Court lets re-look at what is being said.

We know that the ladies from the alleged Moat House Hotel recieved payments but it was directly after the trial so does it fall into the above, whilst rhe NOTW launched an appeal was the perjury under way. The same goes with McNeilage's evidence.

Mr Bird has spoken about the payments to these people so it's not a secret and therefor the prosecution would know about it, I would imagine.

On the Katrina Trolle issue perhaps she did not see that she was being seriously offered payments because she was not interested and the NOTW were only phishing with her - which is not the same as making an offer. And one would imagine it was in the aftermath of the perjury trial when there was no perjury investigation going on

Who is it is being alleged was paid by the NOTW and said that they hadn't?

This is what I mean by 2+2= 149

James Doleman said...

Hello all, sadly I could not get to the court today, however someone else was there and is writing up their notes now, so should have something for you within an hour or so.

Peter said...

Voice of Reason.

Good stuff.

1. Press Code:

I had read the code as well and always considered that likely start point for the press code applying was when the judge in the libel trial announced his concern that perjury was likely to have occurred and that it should be investigated.

Indeed Bob Bird came out from court announced his intention to appeal precisely on grounds of perjury and as I recall quoted the libel trial judges perjury comments in support.

Quite what NOTW lawyers thought they were doing offering money after that point I don't know. Public Interest maybe?

Any inducement of witnesses once they entered the appeal is likely death for their appeal as I indicated previously.

It could as you indicate carry over into criminal charges for them depeding on the nature of the inducement.

2. Contempt of Court 1981:

Yes as you say that needs a bit more research of course as to the dates the NOTW contacted witnesses.

I do think that the defence feel that it was breached as TS braced Bird on the matter.

As it is in the public record a timeline can be legitimately produced by interested observers such as ourselves.

I will add it to the spreadsheet of witesses who have admitted contact from the NOTW and the amounts they say they were offered and then produce a chart so it is more clear.

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to it, James.

Legally Challenged said...

Ok legal eagles but what does this mean for the man in the street,if these witness statements are ruled out/in contempt or whatever.
Would this trial to fall and can we expect a Tommy Sheridan Perjury Trial take two.
As the majority of the remainder witness statements are simply rehashes of the first trial albiet with alterations will they be required once again to be Reluctant witnesses.Or will there be something once lost be found again. in time for a photo oppertunity prior to hand over to the appropriate authorities/NoTW.

the_voice_of_reason said...

Moving on to the question of a "mistrial", and ignoring situations where a key participant in the trial becomes seriously ill or dies part-way through, in which deserting and starting again may be the only fair option, the bulk of the issues raised in respect of payments are matters for the jury.

It may of course be the case that not everybody in Crown Office felt that indicting this case in the High Court was a good idea, but the trial has now started, and there are clearly important discrepancies in the Crown evidence. However, that happens in virtually every long-running trial, especially where allegations of dishonesty are made.

Question of whether to desert is entirely one for the discretion of the trial judge. I have not seen anything reported by way of evidence that doesn't fall squarely within the province of the jury. The crown's position may well be "So the witnesses weren't honest about the money they stood to make, but does that make them liars when talking about the events themselves?" The defence on the other hand will seek to argue that this dishonesty taints their evidence to the extent that renders them incapable of being believed.

As a matter of law, the evidence is admissible.

As he question of whether payments were made or not does not form part of the Crown case, which is simply that both accused committed perjury in the defamation case, and that Tommy suborned a witness to commit perjury on another occasion, it is not necessary for the Advocate depute to go into collateral matters. The defence's right to cross-examine is fettered only by a prohibition on raising irrelevant or unconnected issues. In a case where the defence seeks to lay a basis for there being a conspiracy, and where the Crown position is that the testimony is substantially truthful, it is wholly for the defence to raise the issue. The crown's duty is to disclose information in its possession to the defence, but they don't have to lead it at trial unless they feel it is necessary.

Anonymous said...

Would the issues being raised not be discussed/argued over at the Pre-Trial Hearings?

By the time this has finished we will all be far more informed with regard to the Law with some of the comments being given on here.

Peter said...

Fred the Shred 8.47pm

You ask who has not told the truth about NOTW payments. This is a very brief summary from the media reports about just 2 of the Crown's key witnesses.

1. According to her own testimony, contextualised by Bob Bird's evidence, Ms Khan appears to have given false details (twice under oath) of her payments and career advancements at both the libel trial and this perjury trial.

2. According to Bob Bird's evidence George McNeilage did not inform the court in this perjury trial of his full payments. That is possibly less significant as the amount GMMc admitted he got paid was "life changing" as TS puts it. The concern the defence has with GMc and money is how that large sum of money was distributed after receipt - as he appears to have given evidence that he had spent it already. The defence has out it to GMC that he used part of it to pay off accomplices.

On a related point Ms Trolle stands accused of the much more intriguing accusation to me anyway of denying (twice under oath) any offers at all from the NOTW when the NOTW say she was offered money.

If you think that conundrum through a few times you may reach the same revelation I had a while ago regarding Ms Trolles key role in this tragi-comedy. I do not want to be obtuse it is simply I do not think I would get away with putting my theory on this site.

You could of course continue to regard her testimony (offered twice under oath now) that she she was not offered or paid anything at all (and presumably by that she means people close to her as well were not paid or offered anything) as sustainable testimony.

You advance that her denial of the offers may be sustainable as it could be that she simply misunderstood that she was being offered huge sums of money by the NOTW and actually thought she was not been offered money.

Unfortunately Fred that does not explain her amnesia of the offer that she was made. Would she only remember a serious offer? I would remember a bad/jokey offer from the NOTW as well. Would you not

An anecdote. The advice that fellow advisers (not me of course) sometimes used to offer to clients in fraud matters (when they had been caught bang to rights lying in interviews under caution) was to get them to say to the Tribunal they had paniced, had got in too deep and then had continud to lie as they felt it was better than admitting the first lie but now they knew how wrong to do so they wanted to come clean and throw themselves on the mercy of the court.

It had the ring of truth and it was logical. It had the added quality occasionally actually being the truth!

James Doleman said...

" that does not explain her amnesia of the offer that she was made. "

I am assuming by that you mean the offer she denies she was made but another witness has said occured.

The disputed offer.

Anonymous said...

Peter, wanna have a chat away from here? I think we're thinking along the same lines.

cheesecake111@hotmail.co.uk