'Weakness of flesh led Tommy Sheridan to swingers' club'

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Tommy Sheridan visited a sex club in Manchester out of "weakness of the flesh", it was claimed in court today.

Dr Nicholas McKerrell told the High Court in Glasgow that the former MSP told him he had visited Cupid's with News of the World sex columnist Anvar Khan, but that the journalist would never testify against him.

The Glasgow Caledonian University law lecturer said he thought Sheridan was being "reckless" after he told him he intended to take legal action against the News of the World newspaper over allegations printed about his private life.

Sheridan and his wife Gail are accused of lying under oath during his successful defamation action against the News of the World in 2006.

He sued the newspaper following the publication of allegations that he was an adulterer who visited swingers' clubs, winning £200,000 in damages.

But following the trial a police investigation was launched and the couple were charged with perjury. They deny the charges.

Dr McKerrell said he had known Sheridan since the age of 16, and had joined the Scottish Socialist Party in 1998, when it was founded.

The 40-year-old said Sheridan had discussed the allegations printed in the News of the World with him before a hustings meeting at the university.

The SSP were choosing a new leader after Sheridan stepped down in 2004.

He told the advocate depute: "He was quite evasive, he wasn't looking me in the eye, he was looking into his cappuccino.

"He said: 'I think you know a bit about this - that I attended clubs in Manchester twice in 1996 and 2002.'

"Then he said: 'You know what it's like - weakness of the flesh.

"He mentioned Anvar Khan. He said Anvar Khan would never testify. He outlined his situation - that he was preparing legal action.

"I thought it was very strange. Tommy was embarking on a reckless course of action that was going to destroy all the work that had been done in the preceding seven years."

Dr McKerrell said Sheridan had made a "professional slur" on him by accusing him of lying in court.

He said he would be unable to look his students in the eye if he had done that.

The lecturer added the politician was asking him "witch-hunting" and "McCarthyist" questions after Sheridan asked him if he was a Marxist.

Sheridan then asked: "Do you believe in God?"

Dr McKerrell replied: "No."

Sheridan then asked: "Why did you swear an oath to God? You have not come here to tell the truth."

Dr McKerrell said: "I'm telling the truth and I find that a professional slur on me.

"As a law lecturer, I train the future solicitors and advocates of this country.

"How can I look them in the eye if I was guilty of such deceit?"

The trial also heard from Pamela Tucker, who became the fifth person to say they had seen Sheridan at Cupid's.

Pamela Tucker said she recognised the politician because "of what he did with the poll tax".

The 36-year-old said she met the politician as she went into the club and later invited Sheridan and a group of his friends back to the flat she was staying in for a cup of tea before he went home.

She told the court he had to go back "because he had a wife".

The meeting happened in "the cold weather - later September to November" and "between 2000 and 2003", she told the court.

But she said she couldn't be sure because of the time that had elapsed since.

She said Sheridan was with another man and two women, one of whom was called Anvar.

She said: "I saw Mr Sheridan. He was picking some people up at the club.

"I asked him back for a cup of tea before he went back because he had a wife.

"Of course I knew who he was, because of what he did with the poll tax and stuff."

The indictment against the Sheridans contains three charges in total, two of which are broken down into subsections.

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

He also denies a charge of attempting to persuade a witness to commit perjury shortly before the 23-day trial got under way.

Gail Sheridan denies making false statements on July 31 2006, after being sworn in as a witness in the civil jury trial.

The trial, before Lord Bracadale was adjourned until tomorrow.