'I feared for my unborn child,' says Gail Sheridan

Now witnesses in his libel trial may be prosecuted for perjury
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The Independent Online

Gail Sheridan, the wife of the Scottish politician who last week won £200,000 in a libel action, has revealed that she feared for her unborn child after the publication by the News of the World of lurid allegations about her husband.

"The enormity of the situation got to me," said the 42-year-old yesterday. "I was worried we would lose everything. It has been very difficult, very tough, but we were determined to do this and I have supported Tommy throughout."

She and husband Tommy Sheridan, the former leader of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), spent the five weeks of the Edinburgh trial away from their year-old daughter Gabrielle.

It also emerged last night that the couple had made plans in the event of losing the case. Before the trial began, it is understood that Mr Sheridan, who faced financial ruin, had given the couple's Glasgow home to his wife to prevent its being taken in settlement of the case if the jury verdict had gone against him.

A short time ago, Tommy Sheridan was little known outside Scotland. But after defeating the Rupert Murdoch-owned paper in an emotionally charged case, he has been propelled on to the international stage.

Amid rumours that his wife could have a future on TV as a result, Mr Sheridan yesterday paid tribute to the woman who stood by her man throughout one of the most salacious libel trials of recent times. "The jury saw that I was telling the truth. My wife sticking by me was probably the most important factor."

Among the public who queued each day to witness the trial at the Court of Session in Edinburgh were journalists from around the UK, the US and elsewhere. In addition to the evidence of three-, four- and five-in-a-bed sex romps, swingers' clubs and cocaine-fuelled orgies, the trial, in which Mr Sheridan was seeking £200,000 in damages, provided a grandstand view of a political movement imploding on itself. Like watching a train wreck in slow motion, the public saw the SSP, which just weeks before had been a growing force in Scottish politics, torn apart in public.

Its current leader, Colin Fox, fellow MSPs Rosie Kane and Carolyn Leckie and a number of other high-ranking party officials gave evidence that Mr Sheridan had admitted to them that he had gone to a swingers' club.

He denied ever having made such a confession and accused his comrades of being involved in a conspiracy to undermine him politically. By winning his case ­ it took the jury less than two hours to find in his favour with a majority verdict of 7-4 ­ Mr Sheridan has left his fellow Socialists facing a possible criminal investigation for perjury.

During the trial, the judge, Lord Turnbull, told the jury: "It is a very sorry state of affairs to see so many senior members of a mainstream political party giving contradictory evidence ... about a meeting they all attended. Five members of the Scottish Parliament have given evidence to this court and it's a very serious offence to lie to a court. That is perjury and it is punishable by imprisonment." Yesterday, the Crown Office confirmed that they would be looking at the judge's comments carefully.

Many of the witnesses, who feel their reputations have now been damaged, yesterday stood by what they said in court.

In a joint statement, Ms Leckie and Ms Kane, along with fellow MSP Frances Curran, said they were happy for an inquiry to be held into claims of perjury. "We have told the truth and we stand by the minutes of our party which record the truth about Tommy Sheridan's standing down as national convenor in November 2004, and we will resist any attempt to revise the SSP's history," said the statement, which also expressed anger that the case is likely to rumble on.

The News of the World is expected to lodge an appeal against the judgment this week.