Thursday, December 2, 2010

Detective Sergeant Stuart Harkness Pt 1


The final witness today, and indeed the final witness for the Crown in the case of Her Majesty's Advocate versus Thomas Sheridan and Gail Sheridan, was Detective Sergeant Stuart Harkness. DS Harkness told the court he had been a police officer for fourteen years and had been in the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) since 2000. The Advocate Depute asked the witness if he was familiar with a police investigation named "Operation Median" and DS Harkness confirmed that was the code name for the police inquiry into possible perjury at the 2006 defamation case between Tommy Sheridan and News International.

DS Harkness then told the court that he had been assigned to Operation Median on the 6th October 2006 when he had attended a briefing held by the Senior Investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Gavin Barrie where the newly assembled investigation team was shown the disputed "McNeilage tape." which he  stated showed a "meeting between George McNeilage and Tommy Sheridan." The witness informed the court that this tape had been received by Lothian and Borders police from Bob Bird, the Scottish editor of the News of the World a few days before. DS Harkness denied any suggestion that he had began the case with any "preconceived idea" adding that the decision to prosecute Mr and Mrs Sheridan was not taken by the police but by the Procurator Fiscal's office on the basis of police reports to them. With that Alex Prentice QC thanked the witness, ended his evidence in chief and returned to his seat.
Mr Sheridan began by asking the witness that if he had no "predetermined view" on the McNeilage tape why had he said in his evidence in chief that it was  a record of a "meeting between George McNeilage and Tommy Sheridan." adding "do you see me in the video." DS Harkness replied that he saw a male passing in front of the camera but he was not an expert in facial recognition so "can't say yes or no." the witness added however that in his opinion  one of the voices on the tape was that of Tommy Sheridan.

Mr Sheridan then asked the witness a number of questions about procedural matters in the police investigation before asking DS Harkness how many police officers had been involved in "Operation Median." The witness replied there were four inquiry teams, of two officers each as well as a Detective Chief Inspector and a Detective Sergeant. The witness agreed that numbers may have varied with  between ten and twenty one officers engaged in the inquiry at various times. Mr Sheridan then asked the witness if he knew the budget allocated to the inquiry, which DS Harkness said he did not. At that point the Advocate Depute raised an objection and the jury was asked to leave while this was discussed. At the conclusion of the legal argument The court rose for lunch.


Anonymous said...

"the witness added however that in his opinion one of the voices on the tape was that of Tommy Sheridan".

James was this challenged by TS? Or is this officer the expert witness on the tape?

Anonymous said...

Everyone is entitled to an opinion - even an "expert witness", but here was a police officer subtly adding credence to the genuineness of the tape. For TS's sake I hope that didn't slip under TS's radar.

Bunc said...

or maybe he just recognises TS's voice when he hears it?

Jamesie Cotter Esq.,Govan said...

If opinion evidence is unchallenged then it normally goes in - subject to any gloss added in re-examination.

Rolo Tomasi said...

There is also some latitude in expressing an opinion about something material and perceived by one's own senses, e.g. "From the way he was staggering and the smell coming off him, what was your opinion of the accused's state of inebriation?"
"My opinion was that the accused was drunk, and therefore being behind the wheel of his motor was not the best thing for Major Joyce (Retd)."