Sheridan 'told meeting of swingers' club visits'

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A secretary who took notes at an emergency Scottish Socialist Party meeting told a court today that former MSP Tommy Sheridan admitted he had twice visited a swingers' club.

Barbara Jane Scott, who took the minutes at the meeting, said Mr Sheridan said he had a "flaw" in his character and a "weakness".

Mr Sheridan and his wife Gail, both 46, are on trial at the High Court in Glasgow accused of perjury.

The couple, from Glasgow, are accused of lying under oath during Sheridan's successful 2006 defamation action against the News of the World. They deny the allegations against them.

Mr Sheridan, a former contestant on Celebrity Big Brother, won £200,000 in damages after the newspaper printed allegations about his private life.

Ms Scott, 40, told the court that the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) called an emergency meeting of its executive committee after the newspaper article appeared.

The meeting took place on November 9 2004 at the SSP headquarters in Stanley Street, Glasgow.

Advocate Depute Alex Prentice QC asked her the purpose of the meeting.

She replied: "It was to discuss what was to happen about the fact there had been a newspaper story in the News of the World the previous weekend."

She told the court that she remembered Mr Sheridan was the first to speak at the meeting.

She said: "He talked about the story in the News of the World that had been about an unnamed married MSP that had gone to a swingers' club in Manchester and he said that it was him and that he had gone to it, but that it had been not the dates that they said in the paper, that it was two different dates, and it was a flaw in his character, it was a weakness that he had, but it had only been those two times."

Ms Scott was then shown an A4 notebook, which she said contained the notes she had made at the meeting.

As well as herself, there were 20 members of the executive committee at the meeting, including Alan McCombes and Keith Baldassara.

Ms Scott read from notes she made at the meeting of what Mr Sheridan said.

She read out: "Two visits 1996, 2002, mistake, reckless etc. Publication of book by someone, two other MSPs named. For two weeks someone been trying to sell story to newspapers.

"Keith Baldassara and Alan McCombes last Monday. Asked for opportunity to fight this on own. Confident no proof of participation."

Ms Scott told the court that by this he meant there were no photos.

She read on: "Don't think should have to be hostage to fortune, don't deserve sympathy but do deserve opportunity to fight it.

"Some people may feel loss of confidence. It's for comrades to decide. If by February don't have confidence, will stand down."

Ms Scott said that during a meeting she would take notes which she would later type up into a more formal document.

Others at the meeting that day included Carolyn Leckie, Rosie Kane, Frances Curran and Colin Fox, all former SSP MSPs.

Mr Sheridan, dressed in a dark suit and red tie, and Mrs Sheridan, in black skirt suit, sat close together in the dock.

The seven-page indictment contains three charges in total, two of which are broken down into a number of sub-sections.

Mr Sheridan denies lying to the courts during his case, which followed the newspaper's claims that he was an adulterer who had visited a swingers' club.

It is alleged he made false statements as a witness in the defamation action on July 21 2006.

He also denies another charge of attempting to persuade a witness, Colin Fox, to commit perjury shortly before the 23-day legal action got under way.

The charge alleges that he admitted to a 2004 meeting of the executive committee of the SSP that he had attended a swingers' club, Cupid's Health Club, in Manchester on two occasions.

It is claimed that, knowing accurate minutes of the meeting existed and had been lodged with the court, he tried to get Mr Fox to claim that the minutes of the meeting were not accurate.

Mrs Sheridan denies making false statements on July 31 2006 after being sworn in as a witness in the civil jury trial at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.