Defiant NoW vows to overturn 'perverse' Sheridan libel defeat

News International is determined to repeat its victory in the Bruce Grobbelaar match-fixing libel case and prove that last week's jury verdict in favour of Tommy Sheridan was "perverse".

The Scottish News of the World has welcomed a possible criminal perjury investigation over the 11 members of the Scottish Socialist Party who testified that Sheridan admitted to visiting a sex club. And it has vowed to appeal against the decision.

In 1999, NI appealed against a libel jury decision which gave goalkeeper Grobbelaar £84,999 damages from The Sun — even though the newspaper had audio tape and video evidence to back up its match-fixing stories.

An Appeal Court victory for News International was later overturned by the House of the Lords which, however, remained critical of Grobbelaar and awarded him only £1 in damages.

This latest case centres on stories published by the Scottish NoW in 2004 and 2005, which claimed the MSP and former Scottish Socialist Party leader had cheated on his wife, gone to a swingers' sex club and had taken part in orgies.

After hearing 22 days of evidence, the jury took three hours to return a verdict in Sheridan's favour and award him £200,000 damages — around the upper limit for libel cases.

Sheridan conducted most of his own defence and greeted the victory with an impassioned speech outside the Court of Session in Edinburgh on Friday afternoon in which he portrayed it as a victory for "working class people" against "one of the biggest organisations on the planet".

NoW legal manager Tom Crone said: "Eighteen people have evidence that all went in one direction.

"We contend that the clear weight of the evidence that went before the court supported our side and not his.

"He added a light touch, he pulled all the emotional heart strings, he pressed all the right buttons and was a very accomplished orator.

"He reminded me in his final speech of [the film] Braveheart as he rallied his troops. We say that the weight of the evidence did not support the verdict."

Much of the case rested on a "dodgy minute", as Sheridan called it, of an emergency meeting of the SSP held to discuss the News of the World stories.

The original minute has been reproduced by the NoW and states that Sheridan admitted to the meeting that he had visited a sex club on two occasions, and that he intended to deny the allegations following advice from solicitors.

Sheridan argued in court that three women lied about having sex with him — including News of the World sex columnist Anvar Khan.

In a robust full-page leader comment in the Scottish edition, the News of the World said: "We believe that the verdict is the mother of all injustices. We welcome the news that the police will now investigate claims of perjury and we are happy to co-operate. We will be launching an appeal in the next seven days… and we look forward to seeing Sheridan in court again."

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