Former Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan was today convicted of lying during his defamation case against the News of the World.
The jury at the High Court in Glasgow of 12 women and two men deliberated for six and a half hours before finding Sheridan guilty of perjury after a 12-week trial.
Sheridan was awarded damages of £200,000 at the end of a libel action against the News of the World at the Court of Session in Edinburgh in 2006 over allegations in the newspaper that he was an adulterer who visited swingers’ clubs.
Sheridan and his wife Gail, both 46, were both charged with perjury after the libel case against the tabloid.
The final charge against Gail Sheridan was dropped on Friday last week.
Lothian and Borders Police launched an investigation after witnesses at the libel trial gave opposing accounts of what happened.
At the start of the criminal trial, in October Sheridan faced 18 allegations. This number was reduced to six by the prosecution was the trial progressed.
The court heard from a succession of high-ranking members of the SSP who said Sheridan had confessed that he had twice been to a swingers’ club in Manchester.
Sheridan always maintained his innocence and claimed there was a vendetta against him.
Judge Lord Bracadale warned the court to be silent as the verdict was delivered.
Sheridan was convicted of five allegations under one charge on the indictment.
The last remaining allegation, that he had a sexual relationship with former News of the World columnist Anvar Khan, was deleted.
In coming to their verdict, the 14 members of the jury ruled that:
Sheridan did tell a meeting of the SSP executive committee on November 9, 2004, that he had visited Cupids in Manchester in 1996 and 2002 with Ms Khan
He did not deny visiting a swingers’ club in Manchester at the same meeting
That party members Keith Baldassara and Alan McCombes did state at the meeting that they had previously raised the issue of him attending a sex club in Manchester with him and that he admitted that it was true
That he did visit Cupids with Andrew McFarlane, Gary Clark, Ms Khan and Katrine Trolle on September 27 2002
That he did have a sexual relationship with Katrine Trolle between January 1 and December 31 2005.
Lord Bracadale told Sheridan that when he returned for sentencing on January 26, he could expect to be given a prison sentence.
Following the majority verdict, Advocate Depute Alex Prentice moved for sentencing, giving a short biography of Sheridan’s political career and mentioning previous convictions for breach of the peace.
Sheridan told the jury himself how he had spent time in jail after his protest against the Poll Tax and nuclear weapons.
Lord Bracadale requested background reports and said any submissions by Sheridan could be made at the sentencing hearing next month.
The judge told Sheridan: “You have been convicted of the serious offence of perjury and must return to court expecting to begin a prison sentence.”
He excused the jury from further service for eight years, telling them it had been a “long and arduous” trial.
Outside the court, Gail Sheridan said: “I would like to thank everybody from across Scotland for their wonderful support throughout the last six years that they’ve given to Tommy and I.
“Our family and our real friends, our real friends, have stood by us. I have and will always stand by Tommy.”
Sheridan, who was released on bail until January 26 but did not speak as he left the court.
His solicitor, Aamer Anwar said: “As Tommy Sheridan’s solicitor, I have a statement to make on his behalf: ‘For three years my wife and I have faced charges of perjury.
“‘Today, I was convicted and Gail was acquitted of any crime. I have fought the power of News International all my political life and I make no apologies for taking on the might of Rupert Murdoch.
“‘Several million pounds of public money was spent investigating me and my wife. Is it not time that similar resources were devoted to investigating the activities of the News of the World?
“‘I want to thank all of those who have shown us kindness and solidarity. There will be no further statement until sentencing on the 26th of January’.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Malcolm Graham, of Lothian and Borders Police, said: “This was a long and complex inquiry, carried out by Lothian and Borders Police after a High Court judge stated he was of the opinion that witnesses in a civil case had lied.
“The comments of Lord Turnbull, the presiding judge at the civil case in
2006 where Tommy Sheridan sued the News of the World publication for defamation, ultimately led to Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service instructing Lothian and Borders Police to conduct an inquiry.
“The investigation was into a number of witnesses who had given evidence in that civil case. One of these witnesses was Tommy Sheridan, who at that time was an elected member of the Scottish Parliament. His wife, Gail Sheridan, was also one of the witnesses investigated.”
Mr Graham went on: “The force has a duty to make proportionate and reasonable inquiries into allegations of criminal misconduct which are brought to its attention.
“At every stage of the investigation, Lothian and Borders Police acted on the direction of COPFS.
“All of the evidence from the civil action brought by Mr Sheridan was considered and inquiries made it clear that perjured evidence had been given during the civil hearing.
“I would like to acknowledge the hard work of the police officers and police staff who helped to bring this inquiry to a successful conclusion.”