The Advocate Depute, Alex Prentice QC, began by establishing with Mr McKerrell that he has been a law lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University for 14 years, asked the witness to identify Mr Sheridan in the courtroom, and asked him to confirm how long he had known Mr Sheridan, to which Mr McKerrell pointed at the defendant, Mr Sheridan, sitting in the dock of the court, and then stated he had know Mr Sheridan since he was 16 years old.
Mr Prentice asked the witness to recall a hustings meeting on the 7th or 8th February 2005 at The Edge bar, Glasgow, where Colin Fox and Alan McCombes were speaking and canvassing for vote for the election to replace Mr Sheridan as convener of the SSP. Dr McKerrell confirmed that Mr Sheridan was present at that meeting, and that the witness & Mr Sheridan had arranged to meet later that week outside the Hamish Wood building on the campus of Glasgow Caledonian University. When they met Mr Sheridan's sister, Lynn, was also at the meeting point and met the witness before Mr Sheridan himself arrived. The witness then told the court that Ms Sheridan had then left, and the Dr McKerrell and Mr Sheridan moved to the staff canteen where they had coffeeThe witness then described the conversation with Mr Sheridan, where it was claimed the defendant stated that he was disappointed with events of the last few months and that things would have been easier if people had contacted him directly. Mr Prentice asked the witness to describe Mr Sheridan's demeanour during this conversation and Mr McKerril said that Mr Sheridan seemed evasive and "stared into his cappuccino a lot."
The witness then stated that Mr Sheridan had said at the meeting that he thought Mr McKerrell knew about certain events through conversations with other SSP members. Specifically that Mr Sheridan had visited adult clubs, and that he had added “you know what it's like – the weakness of the flesh." Mr Prentice asked the witness whether Mr Sheridan had mentioned anyone in particular, to which the witness replied that Mr Sheridan had mentioned Anvar Khan, but had informed him “she will never testify” and that Ms Khan had written a book which Mr Sheridan had read in a branch of WH Smith andshe hadn't mentioned him by name, using the name “Patrick” instead.
Mr McKerrell moved on to state that Mr Sheridan had thought the SSP Executive had panicked under the media pressure, and that Mr Sheridan had become more aggressive when discussing Alan McCombes, showing Mr McKerrell a text he had received from Mr McCombes that suggested Mr Sheridan was “going to join the independents." Mr Sheridan had also supposedly told the witness that the supposed this text had been sent to Mr Sheridan by mistake, as it had a "kiss at the end." Dr McKerrell then stated Mr Sheridan had then started to "rant" about Carolyn Leckie and her character, and this was the one point in their conversation that Mr Sheridan had lost control.
The witness then recounted how Mr Sheridan was at the time leafleting for and supporting Colin Fox in the forthcoming SSP election, but that Mr McKerrell told Mr Sheridan he would be voting for Alan McCombes. Mr McKerrell then stated that he told Mr Sheridan that he was embarking on a reckless course of action in taking the News of the World to court.
Mr Prentice then ended his examination of the witness.
Nicholas McKerrell Defence Cross Examination
Mr Sheridan began by confirming with “Mr McKerrell” that he was a lecturer, to which the witness confirmed “Yes. And it's Doctor McKerrell.”
Mr Sheridan then asked Dr McKerrell to confirm that he was a member of the United Left group within the SSP, which the witness confirmed, and then that he had been a member of Militant, as had Mr Sheridan, which the witness also confirmed.
Mr Sheridan then asked Dr McKerrell if he was aware of the SSP National Committee meeting of 28th May 2006, to which Dr McKerrell said he was, but s had not attended. Mr Sheridan asked the witness if he was aware of a motion that was passed, to which the witness responded he had not been there. Mr Sheridan described the motion passed as a statement of solidarity against the News of the World newspaper, and Dr McKerrell confirmed knowledge of this motion. Mr Sheridan then asked if the United Left group was formed shortly after this, and that Dr McKerrell joined United Left at the start, which Dr McKerrell confirmed.
Mr Sheridan then asked Dr McKerrell “Are you a Marxist?” to which Dr McKerrell retorted “Am I or have I ever been...?” Mr Sheridan replied that he had asked a "simple question," Dr McKerrell responded that it seemed like a “McCarthyite question”. Mr Sheridan then stated that he himself was a Marxist, and then Dr McKerrell stated that he too was a Marxist.
Mr Sheridan than asked the witness “Do you believe in God?”, to which the witness replied “No” and Mr Sheridan responded “But you've just sworn to a God that you don't believe exists”, and the witness replied “The option to affirm wasn't given to me by the judge”. Mr Sheridan then asked the witness that surely as a law lecturer, he would know that he had the option of an affirmation. The witness replied that he did not see the relevance of whether he was a Marxist and whether he believed in God, and Mr Sheridan replied that his point was that Dr McKerrell had sworn an oath on something he didn't believe in, and was therefore not bound to tell the truth in his testimony.
Mr Sheridan then put it to the witness that there was someone else there at their meeting and that person was Mr Sheridan's sister. Dr McKerrell replied that they were alone during the entire meeting. Mr Sheridan put it to the witness that his sister, Lynn Sheridan, had been with them the whole time and that Dr McKerrell had come to court to lie. As the witness responded, Lord Bracadale advised “Mr McKerrell” to restrict himself to answering the question. Mr Sheridan stated “Dr McKerrell. Is that how we should address you?”, with the witness replying “Yes”, before continuing that he found the suggestion that he would lie to be a slur and that if this were true, in his role as a lecturer of law educating the future generation of solicitors and advocates, “how could I look them in the eye?”. Mr Sheridan replied that this was a question the witness would have to ask himself, had no further questions, left the lectern and returned to the dock.