Former Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan was jailed for three years today for perjury.
The disgraced politician was convicted last month of lying during his successful defamation action against the News of the World in 2006 – which led to a record £200,000 libel payout.
After a three-month trial at the High Court in Glasgow, Sheridan, 46, was found guilty of lying about the newspaper’s claims that he was an adulterer who visited swingers’ clubs.
Sheridan’s wife Gail, who has vowed to stand by her husband, was also accused of lying to the jury at the Court of Session in Edinburgh in 2006, but she was acquitted when the Crown dropped the case against her last month.
Sheridan had maintained his innocence throughout the trial, claiming he was the victim of a “vendetta” by the police and a “conspiracy” involving the News of the World and colleagues within the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP).
He claimed that 16 former allies were lying as part of a “political civil war” when they told the court that he had admitted at a 2004 meeting to having been to Cupid’s swingers’ club in Manchester.
Presenting his own defence, Sheridan called former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who resigned last week as Prime Minister David Cameron’s ex-communications chief, to give evidence.
But the High Court jury convicted Sheridan him of five of six allegations in a single charge of perjury against him, relating to his evidence during the civil case.
In doing so, they found him guilty of having lied about an affair with SSP member Katrine Trolle in 2005 and a trip to Cupid’s with her, Andrew McFarlane, Gary Clark, and News of the World journalist Anvar Khan on September 27 2002.
Jailing Sheridan, judge Lord Bracadale said: “On any view you were a highly effective and hard working politician.
“You supported individuals in the community; both in the parliament and in the street, you were able to use your undoubted powers of oratory to press home your cause; you led the Scottish Socialist Party to considerable electoral success; and your contributions to the anti-poll tax campaign and the abolition of warrant sales will become part of the fabric of Scottish social and political history.
“By pursuing, and persisting in the pursuit of, a defamation action against the proprietors of the News of the World you brought the walls of the temple crashing down not only on your own head but also on the heads of your family and your political friends and foes alike.
“You were repeatedly warned by the comrades that it would come to this…You embarked on an action in the Court of Session knowing that for it to be successful you would require to tell lies under affirmation.
“You went on to commit perjury in the course of successfully pursuing that action, as a result of which you were awarded a very large sum of damages. In these circumstances the only appropriate sentence, as you yourself recognise, is one of imprisonment.
“I leave out of account your previous convictions which I do not regard as relevant.
“I take into account the terms of the social inquiry report; everything that you have said today; and the references which you have produced. I take account of the significant reduction in the scope of the charge against you. In all the circumstances I impose a sentence of three years imprisonment.”
A News of the World spokesman said: “This is a just outcome to a long and complex criminal case. Today’s sentence also provides closure for the many witnesses who very bravely exposed their own lives to public scrutiny when they testified to Mr Sheridan’s guilt.
“Mr Sheridan has been jailed for lying to a court to secure victory when he sued the News of the World for defamation in 2006. At the time he was an elected member of the Scottish Parliament.
“As we have made clear, we have an appeal lodged against that defamation verdict and we now look forward to that appeal succeeding in Scotland’s Court of Session.”
Sheridan listened to the judge’s comments in silence and stared straight ahead as he was handcuffed by the dock officers.
His family and political comrades who packed the courtroom also stayed silent but raised one fist in the air as a salute.
As he was led to the cells, Sheridan turned to his family and supporters and said: “Take care, all the best.”
His wife Gail then hugged his lawyer, Aamer Anwar and her sister, Gillian, before she too left the court.
She was expected to make a statement outside the court where Sheridan’s supporters and the media had congregated.
Press Gazette undertstands that the News of the World will now seek to appeal the original libel decision and to recoup legal costs of more than £600,000 from Sheridan.
Because an appeal against the original libel judgment was filed, the News of the World didn’t ever actually pay Sheridan his damages.