Tommy Sheridan awarded £200,000

Ex-Scottish Socialist Party leader wins libel claim

Former Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan has won his libel claim against the News of the World over allegations that he was an adulterer who had visited swingers’ clubs and taken part in orgies. A Scottish jury awarded him £200,000 in damages.

The trial, in Edinburgh, was remarkable for a number of reasons, not least Sheridan’s dismissal of his entire legal team during the trial. He conducted the rest of the case himself. The witnesses he examined included his wife, Gail Sheridan, 42, who hit headlines by giving evidence that had the stories been true she would be on trial for Mr Sheridan’s murder, and that they could not be because none of the witnesses had mentioned Mr Sheridan’s excessive bodyhair.

The News of the World have indicated that they intend to appeal on the basis that the jury’s verdict was perverse. It seems unlikely that such an appeal would be successful; while the jury’s verdict was overturned as perverse by the Court of Appeal in Grobbelaar v News Group Newspapers, that decision was subsequently reversed in the House of Lords, where it was emphasised that very strong grounds are necessary for such a finding.

Lothian and Borders Police are reportedly investigating complaints of perjury against some of the witnesses for the newspaper, including Members of the Scottish Parliament.  The trial judge, Lord Turnbull, had told the jury in his summing up: “You might feel there is little conclusion other than that some of [the witnesses] must have lied in evidence … It seems to me pretty much inevitable there will have to be a criminal investigation at the conclusion of this case into the question of whether witnesses have committed perjury.”