Witness accuses Tommy Sheridan of 'reckless' error

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Former MSP Tommy Sheridan made a "reckless and suicidal" error when he decided to sue the News of the World over allegations about his private life, a former colleague told a court today.

Alan McCombes, former press and policy officer of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), also said Sheridan had "dragged" the party he led and helped to create into a "toxic quagmire" of his own making, and accused him of telling "hundreds of lies" over the past six years.

Mr McCombes, who worked closely with Sheridan for 26 years, was giving evidence to the former SSP MSP's perjury trial at the High Court in Glasgow for a second day.

Sheridan and his wife Gail, both 46, are accused of lying under oath during his successful libel action against the News of the World in 1996. They deny the charges.

The action followed the newspaper's claims that he was an adulterer who visited swingers' clubs.

Sheridan won £200,000 in damages after the newspapers printed the allegations about his private life and he has accused SSP chiefs of forging a minute of their emergency meeting of November 9 2004.

A total of 15 people have told the court that Sheridan admitted visiting Cupids' club in Manchester - a swingers' club - during the meeting.

But Sheridan said the minutes that were handed over by the party were a "dodgy document" that did not reflect what he says happened at the meeting.

He said Mr McCombes, who was jailed for contempt of court after he refused to give the minutes to the News of the World in 2006, went to jail to "enhance the status" of what he said was a false minute.

Mr McCombes told him: "It was you who forged a document and sent it to the News of the World.

"I do know that you were being deceitful and dishonest. You were the first and only person to question the authenticity of these minutes.

"These minutes were undisputed until you went to the Court of Session and incredibly - to our incredulity - denied the authenticity, and then presented what was really a dodgy and forged minute which I believe was your concoction.

"You are lying Tommy, this is one of the hundreds of lies which you have uttered in the past six years."

Mr McCombes added that he had not handed over the minutes because he wanted to protect the SSP "from being dragged into the toxic legal quagmire that you had created with your reckless and suicidal mistake of going to the Court of Session".

Sheridan then produced his diary entry for November 1 2004, which read: "Meeting with KB and AMc - Row - They don't believe me."

Mr McCombes responded: "I don't know when it was entered but it is not an accurate recording of that discussion."

Mr McCombes was also questioned about a video apparently showing Sheridan discussing the case with George McNeilage which was obtained by the News of the World following the libel trial.

He asked Mr McCombes if he had "scripted" the video and "helped" Mr McNeilage to make the film.

Mr McCombes told him: "That is nonsense. Neither did I hire Rory Bremner to do an impression of you, Tommy.

"I did not write a script for that tape and that is another scurrilous false accusation. "

He said he felt the jury in the 2006 action had come to a "mistaken decision" in finding against the News of the World, adding that he had been "shocked to core" by the way Sheridan had conducted the case.

He said: "You put your own party on trial. People have been accused of quite serious criminal acts - of perjury, of dishonesty."

Mr McCombes also asked the judge if Sheridan was allowed to ask the questions he was putting to him, saying Sheridan was being deliberately "misleading".

He said: "I'm being asked questions when the person asking the questions knows he is misleading me, knows he is lying."

The judge, Lord Bracadale, replied: "If it was not a proper question, I would not allow it to be asked."

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.

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

The trial was adjourned until this afternoon.