Former Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) MSP Tommy Sheridan yesterday pleaded with a jury to acquit him of perjury, telling them his life was at stake.
The politician addressed the panel at the High Court in Glasgow at the close of a long-running trial into allegations he lied under oath during his defamation case against the News of the World in 2006.
Sheridan was awarded £200,000 following the successful action prompted by the newspaper’s claims he was an adulterer who visited swingers’ clubs.
He was originally charged alongside his wife Gail but the charges against the mother-of-one were dropped on Friday.
Sheridan denies six allegations of perjury during the civil jury trial in July 2006.
He began his closing remarks with an apology to the jury for the length of his speech.
Sheridan, who is conducting his own defence, said: “I do hope that you’ll understand that my life is at stake.
“I’ve got a wee girl at home, I’ve got a loving wife and if you decide to convict me I’ll be separated from them for a very long time.
“I have to convince you that there’s far too much reasonable doubt for you to find me guilty of any of the remaining six charges.”
During the first part of his speech, Sheridan raised questions over the testimony of several Crown witnesses, including SSP member Barbara Scott, who the trial has heard handed the minutes of a party meeting in to police following the defamation action.
It is alleged that Sheridan admitted attending a sex club on two occasions at the gathering on November 9 2004.
He also remarked on the evidence of fellow member Allison Kane, who said he did not attend a party event on September 27 2002 – the night he is alleged to have visited Cupid’s in Manchester.
He said Kane seemed to have a “marvellous recollection” about people not being places.
Sheridan said: “The Crown’s problem is that they are seeking to rely on liars, they are seeking to rely on witnesses who lack credibility and reliability.”
He also criticised the investigation by Lothian and Borders Police, saying his family had been “persecuted” and launched a staunch defence of his wife.
Referring to events on Friday, he said: “My wife Gail became a free woman for the first time in three years and was allowed to at last attend (her child’s) primary school without having a charge over her head of being a perjurer.”
Sheridan told how he and his wife were first investigated for perjury in October 2006 and how his home was searched by police nine days before Christmas, with officers checking his child’s nappy and turning out the pockets of her anorak.
He said he was charged with the crime three years ago and his wife was charged with perjury and theft in February 2008.
They were summoned to the High Court in Edinburgh the following month, he said, and were served with a “big list” of charges.
Referring to the Lothian and Borders detective who gave evidence in the trial, he said: “I accused DS Harkness of conducting a vendetta, not an inquiry.
“He denied it. Yet after 11 weeks of evidence from the Crown and not a jot of evidence led in the defence of my wife, she was acquitted of all charges and allowed to walk free from the dock.
“Eleven weeks, then allowed to walk free, but it wasn’t a vendetta?”
He went on: “The reason my wife Gail Sheridan was in this dock with me had nothing to do with her being guilty of perjury.
“She was guilty of believing in her husband.”
Sheridan said his wife was charged with theft relating to alcohol miniatures to “blacken her name” and described the allegation as “baseless and malicious”.
He then addressed the jury on the charges he faced that were dropped in the course of the trial.
He was originally accused of attempting to “suborn” or convince SSP member Colin Fox to lie for him under oath, but the prosecution explained yesterday that the claim was uncorroborated.
Many of the allegations relating to the perjury charge were also withdrawn, with six remaining out of more than a dozen.
Referring to the subornation charge, Sheridan said: “If the Crown knew that it was going to be an uncorroborated charge, then why did they libel it against me in the first place?
“Why, if it was going to be an uncorroborated charge, did they hang it over me for three years?”
He also asked why no-one for the prosecution contacted the manager of the Lochside Hotel in Ayrshire to verify a diary entry of his which stated he spent the night there on June 17, 2006, the day before it had been alleged he met with Colin Fox in Edinburgh.
He went on to say: “Ladies and gentlemen, this has been a fair and even-handed prosecution from the start and, as we all know, the moon is made of cheese.”
Sheridan said of an allegation relating to a supposed sex encounter with a girl at the Moat House Hotel in June 2002, since withdrawn by the Crown: “A serious and extremely damaging charge libelled against me and dropped like confetti by the Crown.”
He said: “It may be suggested that the Crown indictment is written in disappearing ink.
“At every stage of the trial, something has been scored out.”
Sheridan went on to ask the jury to consider the “circumstantial evidence” produced by the Crown in relation to the alleged sex club visit with Katrine Trolle and Anvar Khan – a plane ticket receipt in the name of Khan and receipts from Primark and Debenhams belonging to Trolle.
He said: “How remarkable is it that Anvar Khan flew to Glasgow on the September weekend?”
He asked the jury: “Have any of you shopped at Primark or Debenhams?
“You might as well own up now, as you’re going to be accused of visiting a sex club.
“This is the evidence that you’re being asked by the Crown to use to put me in jail in a multi-million pound trial.”
Sheridan told the jury the Crown case against him was “not only weak, it’s verging on pathetic”.
He said they had been “let down” by prosecutors in their failure to provide forensic evidence such as mobile phone records or any expert analysis of the so-called McNeilage tape – the footage filmed by Sheridan’s best man which is alleged to feature Sheridan incriminating himself.
He said: “I think the Crown has let you down.
“If the Crown is going to ask you to make a decision of that enormity, where’s the voice expert, where’s the video expert testimony?”
Sheridan will conclude his speech today when judge Lord Bracadale will then direct the jury.