Tommy Sheridan 'asked colleague to lie to lawyer'

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Former MSP Tommy Sheridan asked a colleague to lie to a lawyer about minutes of a meeting where he allegedly admitted visiting a swingers' club, a court heard today.

Colin Fox, 51, said Mr Sheridan asked him to send a statement to his solicitor saying that the minutes of the meeting were false, and that people who said he had admitted going to the club were mistaken.

Mr Fox refused, saying it was a "train wreck" strategy.

The trial at the High Court in Glasgow has heard that at a meeting of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) executive committee, on November 9 2004, Mr Sheridan admitted twice visiting a swingers' club.

Mr Sheridan and his wife Gail, both 46, are accused of lying under oath during his successful 2006 defamation action against the News of the World. They deny the allegations against them.

He won £200,000 in damages after the newspaper printed allegations about his private life.

One of the charges he faces is that he attempted to persuade Mr Fox to commit perjury shortly before the 23-day legal action got under way.

The SSP had not wanted to hand the minutes to the courts and one member was jailed for contempt of court over the issue, after which the party handed over the minutes.

Mr Fox, former Lothians MSP, said he met Mr Sheridan at the Beanscene cafe near the Scottish Parliament on June 18 2006, where Mr Sheridan made the request.

He said: "The minutes had already been handed in by this stage and Mr Sheridan asked me to send a statement to his solicitor saying that the minutes, in effect, were false, that he had not admitted to attending a swingers' club and that those people who had said he had admitted to it were mistaken."

Advocate depute Alex Prentice QC asked whether he was prepared to do what Mr Sheridan asked.

He replied: "No. I told him it was a train wreck of a strategy. He was asking me to send a statement to his solicitor disowning my party, disowning those minutes. I told him I was not prepared to do it."

Mr Fox told the court that he and party colleague Allan Green met Mr Sheridan at the Golden Pheasant pub in Lenzie on May 12 2006 and tried to persuade him to drop the action against the News of the World.

They were not successful.

The indictment against the Sheridans 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 a charge of attempting to persuade a witness to commit perjury shortly before the 23-day legal action got under way.

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.

The trial, before Lord Bracadale, is in its fourth day.

The trial was played video footage said to have been filmed by George McNeilage in the days after an emergency meeting of the SSP executive about the revelations in the News of the World.

In the video shown to the jury, Mr Sheridan was allegedly talking about going into the meeting and addressing its membership.

The video was obtained by the News of the World following Mr Sheridan's successful libel action against the newspaper.

Mr Sheridan was identified in the video by Mr Fox, his friend of 30 years.

Mr Fox said he was "disappointed" by the emergence of the video and that Mr McNeilage, who was best man at Mr Sheridan's wedding, had filmed it.

A man's voice in the video can be heard to say: "They want me to come to a meeting that night to explain myself and this is where I make the big mistake. A f****** huge mistake. A humongous mistake.

"I got to the meeting, there's 19 people sitting around a f****** circle, sitting on desks, sitting on chairs. The atmosphere you cut with a f****** knife, man.

"I then make the biggest mistake of my life by confessing something in front of 19 f******. What am I doing confessing to these c****?"

Mr Fox told the court: "That executive committee of November 9, 2004 was the SSP's 9/11. It was when our totem came crashing down. We would remember that meeting for the rest of our lives."

As well as visiting the swingers' club, Mr Sheridan had an affair with a member of the SSP, Katrine Trolle, the court was told.

Duncan Rowan, the former regional organiser of the SSP for the north-east of Scotland, then told the court he had informed the News of the World about the affair to try to protect another woman, Fiona McGuire, who the newspaper thought was having an affair with Mr Sheridan.

The 37-year-old, who resigned from the party and left Scotland after going to the newspaper, said Ms McGuire had tried to kill herself after she was approached by the newspaper in connection with allegations of a "four in a bed" orgy with Mr Sheridan.

He said he went to the newspaper the day after the emergency meeting because he blamed himself for the "fragile" woman's suicide attempt and had been told by Ms Trolle that she had been having an affair with Mr Sheridan.

He said: "I had to do something to recover the situation. It was because Katrine had said to me on previous occasions that she was having an affair with Tommy Sheridan.

"I believed they had the wrong person, I believed I knew who the right person in the story was."

Mr Rowan said he was wracked with guilt after the article was published and told the court he had left Scotland because he "wanted to get away from the mess".

Mr Sheridan stared straight ahead of him while the evidence against him was given to the court today, while Mrs Sheridan sat close by him.