Friday, November 26, 2010

Douglas Wight Pt 1

After explaining to the court that the next witness was being called by the Crown as a courtesy to  Mr Sheridan, and therefore would not be seeking any evidence in chief from the witness, Alex Prentice QC called Douglas Wight as a witness, confirmed his name, his age of 37, occupation as a News Of The World (NoW) journalist and residence as London, then returned to his seat.

Mr Sheridan left the dock and began his cross examination from the lectern next to the jury.

Mr Sheridan began by asking Mr Wight “Would it be fair to describe you as gatekeeper for the dark side?”. Mr Wight disagreed, and asked whether Mr Sheridan mean the question literally, and was enquiring into his status as a Jedi Knight.

Mr Sheridan then asked the witness whether he had ever referred to NoW as the “chancers”, to which Mr Wight agreed, but explained that this was a “quote within a quote” during a conversation with Fiona McGuire where he was suggesting she could regard the NoW as “chancers” if it helped her during the publishing of her story, and suggested this exchange showed how relaxed Ms McGuire was in her dealings with the NoW.  Mr Sheridan questioned how something Mr Wight said could show how relaxed Ms McGuire was.

Mr Sheridan then established some more personal details with the witness – that he had been married since 2002, that his job title is “Books Editor” at the News Of The World, based in the Wapping, London HQ of News International, that he had worked in Scotland at The Sun, then at News of the World from 1998 to June 2006, serving as a reporter until January 2000 when he became News Editor, having been appointed to that post by Phil Hall, Bob Bird's predecessor as editor of the Scottish News of the World. Mr Sheridan queried this, stating that previous witness Bob Bird had testified that he had appointed Mr Wight, to which the witness responded that Mr Bird was within the company at the time and had some input to his appointment as he had been senior to Mr Wight at that time. Mr Sheridan then commented that perhaps Mr Bird had been mistaken.

It was established that Mr Wight had moved to the News of the World in London as News Editor in June 2006, and Mr Sheridan established with the witness that he had nine reporters reporting to him as News Editor, then asked whether Mr Wight's salary was high, to which Mr Wight replied that this was by no means the case.

Mr Sheridan then asked whether it was part of Mr Wight's  job to break the law, with Mr Wight replying that this was “not strictly true”, adding that he did not accept it to be true when Mr Sheridan repeated the question.

Mr Sheridan then asked for production of a police statement of Mr Wight's to DC Aitken & PC Baker, but Mr Prentice objected, and the presiding judge Lord Bracadale stated that evidence should be taken from the witness first before going to any police statement by the witness related to particular points.

Mr Sheridan then asked whether the witness's job was to check out stories to make sure they were true, with which Mr Wight agreed. Mr Sheridan then asked whether the NoW was a competitive environment, and the witness agreed, stating that there was competition for space in the paper.

Mr Sheridan then asked the witness to clarify whether his change of role from News Editor in Wapping to Books Editor had been a demotion, to which the witness replied it had been a sideways move and his salary had not been effected.

Mr Sheridan then asked whether Mr Wight had met anyone from the NoW since he had been back in Glasgow to testify in this case, with the witness responding that he had met Mr Bird, where they had spent an hour in the NoW Glasgow office on Tuesday discussing the background of the case and how it was going, amongst other things, but that there had been nothing discussed regarding his evidence. Mr Sheridan pressed the witness several times on the content of this discussion with Mr Bird, with the witness stating that he could not remember, and when Mr Sheridan asked whether he thought it wise to meet Mr Bird, the witness again stated that  he and Mr Bird knew not to discuss evidence. Mr Sheridan commented that it was strange that the witness could not recall a conversation on Tuesday, with the witness replying that he could not recall anything specifically, and that they had discussed “general specifics”.

Mr Sheridan asked the witness whether he had met Mr Neil Murray, a News of the World lawyer, which the witness denied, then Mr Sheridan asked if he had received legal advice on how to conduct himself in court, which again the witness answered he had not, with Mr Sheridan adding that Mr Bird had done so, and that he testified to that effect earlier in the trial.

Mr Sheridan then asked whether the NoW was a newspaper that regarded itself as being above the law and that could make make payments to people to remain quiet about illegal activities. The witness replied he was not aware of any payment for illegal activities.

Mr Sheridan then asked about Mr Wight's major role in the “Sheridan Story”, with Mr Wight clarifying that the Fiona McGuire story was the only one he worked on, then describing getting a tip from freelancer Ken Adams in around April 2004 that Fiona McGuire was claiming to have had a relationship with Mr Sheridan, the NoW making first contact with Ms McGuire in August 2004, then publishing the story in November 2004, agreeing with Mr Sheridan that over this timeframe he had done everything he could to “check out the story”.

Mr Sheridan asked the witness about Greg Miskiw (NoW North-East England Editor), whom Mr Wight remembered as having various roles at the paper and had had some contact with. Mr Sheridan then asked about the NoW's use of Private Investigators, with the witness describing how they were used for tracing people, occupancy, accessing company records, but that in the case of Tommy Sheridan had only ever used one to trace Duncan Rowan. Mr Sheridan then asked specifically about Stephen Whittamore, whom the witnessed admitted using as he provided info that could help move stories on. Mr Sheridan queried why Mr Whittamore should be used by NoW Scotland when he was based in London (with the witness stating that Mr Whittamore lived in Hampshire), with the witness stating that Mr Whittamore was a resource used in general by the paper, but that he could not recall who had originally passed him the name of Mr Whittamore, but denied that it was Andy Coulson as he was not at the NoW at the time, and that it probably wasn't Greg Miskiw either. Mr Sheridan finally asked what the witness knew of Mr Whittamore now, with the witness stating that he knew Mr Whittamore had been prosecuted for accessing data in breach of the data protection act.

Mr Sheridan then asked the witness about the "blue book:" which, according to him was found in a raid on Steve Whittamore's home by the police. This book  listed requests for "illegal services" by various journalists Mr Sheridan put it to Mr Wight that his name is there listed seventy times.  Mr Wight  insisted that the true figure was  seventeen  times, and argued that Mr Sheridan had mistaken 70 for 17. Mr Wight added that all invoices to his office would be in his name, whatever journalist had asked for them. The witness also told the court  that only 10 of these were "actioned" and paid for and in his dealings with Mr Whittamore he had only "gave him information we had and asked him to help us" Mr Sheridan asked if this involved tracing addresses from telephone numbers to which the witness replied he
did not recall", but that he knew  that were 305 journalists in blue book, a  figure he had read in the the Guardian newspaper (which he described as not the NoW's "biggest cheerleader"  and the NoW was "not the biggest user" listed in the book.

Mr Sheridan then asked Mr Wight about a "league table" of users of Mr Whittamore's services. Mr Wight stated that the News of the World was  not at top" Mr Sheridan  asked if the witness himself was  "high on league table, to which Mr Wight replied that he was "convinced I'm at the  lower end of scale" Mr Sheridan then put it to the witness that in fact he was "third" on the list of journalists who used Mr Whittamore. Mr Wight called this statement  "preposterous" as he had checked with the newspaper accounts department last year and there had only been 17 requests of which only 10 were paid.

Mr Sheridan  then asked Mr Wight  how the paper had traced Anne Colvin, as she had phoned the NoW under a false name and given an anonymous tip off but then one week later Mr Wight had arrived at her home address, supposedly telling her "believe me if we want you we can find you" Mr Wight denied he had used Mr Whittamore's services  after 2002  and claimed he had found Ms Colvin's address by searching  the internet,  found that the mobile number he had was associated with a garage and that the garage had only one female director. He had then went to the premises, got Ms Colvin's address and then went to her home.

Testimony then moved on to the issue of Fiona McGuire which we will deal with in a separate post later this evening.



north east lad said...

I don't understand this 'calling a witness as a courtesy to the defence'. If the defence wants to call a witness, they can do it at a time of their choosing. How is it helpful to the defence to cross examine a witness during the prosecutions case when that witness has not given any evidence first?

James Doleman said...

I'd assume NE lad because he had already been cited by the prosecution and it was easier just to have them call him rather than go through the whole process of serving him with a new citation etc.

Anonymous said...

Clearly Mr Sheridan retained the right to call Mr Wight as a defence witness and must have been happy to proceed as he did.

the_voice_of_reason said...

James: As I've posted elsewhere my guess is that it perhaps allowed him to go on holiday or attend to other business - a witness on the Crown or Defence lists may be called by any party.

Anonymous said...

For those of us with a short attention span, who have difficulty reading the full report on D . Wright's evdience.



James Doleman said...

That may be correct Voice of Reason, although I got the impression that the Crown was not interested in calling Mr Wight at all, they did not ask him any questions or re-examine him.

innocent standbyer said...

That was a leave alone witness if ever there was.
TS needs to realise that on an average jury there will be some Murdoch press readers. Attacking what they choose to buy could backfire.
The TS cross technique today comes over, at least on paper, as being bombastic as against a witness who is trying to play with (in the context of this trial) a straight bat. Juries hate that. A wee bit more "You're here to help the truth, the court and last of all me" helps. That classic cross-examination technique seems beyond Tommy.

Evening Record said...

too right, go into any newsagents and what do you see on the counter? - a great big pile of shite.

Anonymous said...

TS needs to get out of his rarefied environment a bit more where everyone appears to read the guardian, independent, and independent. MOST people read the Scum/NotW!

Anonymous said...

Perish the thought that a hypothetical accused going off on an anti-Murdoch rant has 15 Scum/NotW readers sat on their jury.

Campbell McGregor said...

In Glasgow the most popular paper is the Daily Record (sister paper of the Daily Mirror) which has tended to side with Tommy.

Digressing slightly, some aspects of Paul McBride's cross-examination of Anvar Khan might not have gone down very well with a jury consisting mainly of women.

Watcher said...

Campbell, only someone who was not in court on that memorable day could think that, or someone who had heard some very crude propaganda.

Sceptic said...

How many people who read the Sun in Scotland vote Conservative?

People read Tabloids without agreeing with their political views.

Anonymous said...

Campbell McGregor said..
Digressing slightly, some aspects of Paul McBride's cross-examination of Anvar Khan might not have gone down very well with a jury consisting mainly of women.

I would hope that you are not indicating that female jurers would deliberate in this trial not on the evidence but on implied injured feelings?

Anonymous said...

@ Spectic, if people read tabloids without agreeing with their political views why do political parties bend over backwards to ensure Murdoch's support in the run- up to General Elections? And who do you think is the most important and influential political figure is in the UK?.... Answer: Trevor Kavanagh - Political Editor of the Sun.

Anonymous said...

aye, its the sun wot won it!

shufty-wufty-bufty said...

My concern is that TS is treating this as some sort of uni law student mooting exercise. In that context being clever,ballsy, brassy and in-yer-face works well.

In the real world juries like low key, subtle, insistent and intelligent advocates. Like McBride who has just had the best week of his career thanks to knowing when to speak and when not to. TS could learn from a Tory in that regard

Tommy not cross-examining a future witness to (in his opinion) shreds but sitting on his hands and smiling sweetly is a tactic he should consider. But, sadly he won't. Because it's Gretna at the San Siro.In his eyes. Death or glory.Sh*t or bust. Not clever-but predictable.

Justsaying said...

Paul McBride "Low key"

I really hope he reads that, he will have a good laugh

Oriolenses said...

MCBride's x-exam of McColl was classic example of initially low key, insistent advocacy turning into utter laceration when the means and method presented. I heard that he spent a chunk of time being quite nice to the witness before reverting to mongoose/cobra mode. TS could learn a lot.At the moment McBride is Barcelona 2010, TS is Leeds 1973.

Anonymous said...

Oriolenses ...
Experience is a good thing and that takes time.T.S. however has not had that opportunity.

Orielenses said...

TS has chosen to sack highly experienced and provenly effective senior Counsel. We will never know why but it has certainly been the case in the past that accused have sacked their brief because they don't think that somebody is being hard enough on the witnesses.
We have to remember that at every turn the events that have lead TS to where he is now have largely been at his hands. He chose to sue and he has chosen-twice- to sack counsel anybody in his predicament would be well advised to stick with.He will have to live with the consequences of his decisions and if things turn out badly then he should not complain.
Thanks to James' excellent reports we all have the opportunity to get an unbiased view of proceedings. The impression I increasingly get is that TS thinks that this is some form of hustings and the skills he uses to such effect there will succeed equally well before a jury. It's an interesting but - to me at least- risky approach.

Anonymous said...

Maybe he thought that McBride was being "hard enough on the witnesses".

Orielenses said...

Maybe indeed.Though it might be unwise to assume that McBride is going to be around to do dish out the rough stuff for the whole duration.

Victor English said...

Orielenses, I am thinking along the same lines, McBride may not be there when the defence starts.

Although I would be kinder to Mr Sheridan. I think he is doing surprisingly well considering his lack of experience.

He may lack McBride's skill in teeing up a witness for a fall, but his deep knowledge of the in and outs of the case gives an advantage over McBride and Maggie Scott when it comes to acting on information that crops up during the trial.

Campbell McGregor said...

I assure you I was in court when Paul McBride cross-examined Anvar Khan, this was anything but low-key, a dreadful piece of ham acting with a streak of misogyny.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
James Doleman said...

Sorry Anons, interesting speculation but I'd rather we not go there.

Anonymous said...

No worries, James.

Denizen (apologies all round) said...

Sorry it is sometimes difficult to follow my own notes.
1) Wight met Fiona McGuire at Stanstead - not Luton. Still doesn't change the argument.
2) I am told that Wight made the remark 'believe me if I want you we can find you' to Ann Colvin not Fiona McGuire. This is a more serious mistake for which I humbly apologise. However it still exhibits a bullying and threatening tone.
3) I admitted to quibbling. If you quibble with me I quibble with you. It could be made into a new board game 'Quibble' trademark. all rights reserved.
4) I may have made a remark about Sheridan having to disprove all of the allegations in the first trial. I was misled. And if I made that remark I apologise. I don't remember any implication to that effect in recent posts. I'd let Sheridan attack the whole government. I wish he'd been allowed to do just that rather than having his life and career rubbished and then being dragged through a hedge backwards because some people were afraid that they would be charged.

Sheridan has every right to attack the record of honesty of the NOW, not just towards him but towards others who have been allegedly or actually 'outed'. Therfore he goes for the throat. If you wish to imply that the NOW should be spared attack, I can only say I find that ludicrous. The NOW tried to do him. He has every right to try to do them.

Peter said...

Campbell McGregor,

Misogyny really? Mr McBride is simply reflectinp the contempt that Gail Sheridan has previously publically expressed for women who, she believes, are lying about havig had sex sessions with her husband and father of her child. Is Gail mysogynist as well?

A more interesting point is that Tommy Sheridan has publically and in court shown compassion to the plight that Ms Trolle, Ms Khan and Ms McGuire have found themselves.

Tommy recognises that the reason he and Gail are in court is effectively due to the United Left, the NOTW, the police and the Crown.

Although critical of what he says are there lies in many ways he says they are victims as much as he is. He understandsthe the difficulty they have in retracting their stories.

Tommy has publically said that even Bob Bird should not be jailed but just do community service. That magnamity is perhaps admirable in the circumstances.