Saturday, December 11, 2010
At the conclusion of Andrew Coulson's testimony the presiding judge, Lord Bracadale, asked the jury to leave the court while a legal issue was dealt with. There then was a short break. When the court reconvened the next witness presented by the defence, Paul Holleran, took the stand. Mr Holleran told the court he was a Trade Union organiser with the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and had been for 16 years. Mr Sheridan then asked Mr Holleran if he knew previous Crown witness Anvar Khan, the witness confirmed that he did and Mr Sheridan asked Mr Holleran if he could tell the court the circumstances of how he knew her.
Mr Holleran explained that in his capacity as a Trade union official he had represented Ms Khan on a number of occasions. The witness then told the court that in 2004/2005 Ms Khan had asked the union to support her in her contract negotiations with the News of the World,(NotW) where she was employed as a freelance columnist and feature writer. Ms Khan had told Mr Holleran that she was "unhappy" about how she was being treated and had asked the NUJ for assistance. When discussing the issue Mr Holleran told the court that Ms Khan had told him that the mangement at the NotW were "pressing her to do things she was not comfortable with" which included being asked to sign an affidavit in relation to Mr Sheridan's action for defamation against the NotW.
Mr Sheridan then asked Mr Holleran if he could be more exact about when this had occurred. The witness told the court that Ms Khan had approached the NUJ in November 2004 during the negotiations over her new contract. Mr Holleran described Ms Khan as "stressed out" and under pressure to get the stories the editor was looking for. The witness told the court that Ms Khan had said to him that the situation was a "farce" and "nothing to do with me" and that there was a threat to her new contract unless she "came up with information." Mr Holleran was asked again if he could be more specific and replied that Ms Khan had been told that her contract would not be renewed "if she didn't play ball. Ms Khan had also said she had "dumbly signed an affidavit" and had asked about her "legal rights." Mr Sheridan then asked Mr Holleran what advice he had given Ms Khan. The witness told the court that he had "supervised" the case but handed it over to a colleague to take care of the "day to day negotiations" to try and obtain a more "robust" contract for Ms Khan.
Mr Sheridan then asked Mr Holleran if there were any newspapers in Scotland that did not recognise the NUJ. The witness replied that there were two, the DC Thomson group and News International (publisher of the NotW) The witness added, however the union still had a "legal right" to represent it's members in any newspaper group, and had exercised that in relation to the negotiations on behalf of Ms Khan.
Finally Mr Sheridan asked Mr Holleran if the NUJ had a position on journalists using "illegal methods" to obtain stories. The witness replied that the union "frowned on this as it brought the industry into disrepute" Mr Sheridan then asked about relationships between the police and newspapers and asked if Mr Holleran was aware of circimstances under which police officers being paid for information by newspapers. The witness told the court that this was "not openly discussed" but there was an "understanding in the industry that it happens." Mr Sheridan then thanked the witness and returned to his seat in the dock. The Advocate Depute then rose to cross-examine.
Alex Prentice QC, for the Crown, opened by asking Mr Holleran if he had ever represented Tommy Sheridan, the witness replied "not at that time." Asked when he had represented the accused Mr Holleran told the court that this was "after the News of the World article" and Mr Sheridan had asked for advice about bringing a libel case. Mr Prentice then asked the witness who was representing Ms Khan at this time, Mr Holleran replied "Jim McCannally"
Mr Prentice then asked the witness if he had ever been subject to a formal complaint during his time working for the NUJ. Mr Holleran replied 'not to my knowledge" Mr Prentice put it to the witness that the NUJ had received a complaint about a "conflict of interest" from Anvar Khan. Mr Holleran said there was no conflict of interest as Mr McCannally was representing Ms Khan while he represented Mr Sheridan. Asked if there was an "inquiry" into this issue by the union Mr Holleran said "no". Mr Prentice asked the witness if he had been required to submit a report to the union about the case in 2006. Mr Holleran said there was nothing unusual on him submitting reports as the NUJ was a democratic organisation and "that's what I do."
Mr Prentice then asked the witness if there had ever been a "threat of litigation" against the NUJ from Anvar Khan. Mr Holleran responded that there had heard discussion about an article in the union magazine "The Journalist" which may have been the subject of a defamation complaint. from ms Khan. When asked by Mr Prentice is this had been "settled" Mr Holleran replied "I don't know." With that the Advocate Depute ended his cross-examination and Mr Sheridan rose to re-examine.
Mr Sheridan asked the witness if it was normal for him to produce reports on cases he was dealing with, Mr Holleran replied "I do it every week." Mr Holleran again stated that to his knowledge there had been no formal complaint laid against him. When asked about his involvement with "The Journalist" magazine Mr Holeram stated "none whatsoever." With that Mr Sheridan concluded his re-examination and the witness was allowed to step down from the stand.
Lord Bracadale then adjourned the case until Monday morning.
Posted by James Doleman at 1:11 PM