Who is pulling the strings?

Extracts from a statement released by theSolidarity Press Team
Full article at Solidarity, Scotland's Socialist Movement

Tommy Sheridan's victory in his defamation case against the News of the World (NotW) in July 2006 sent shock waves throughout the entire Scottish legal legal establishment, the media, and society in general. Rupert Murdoch himself was reported to have been enraged by the outcome of the case, in which a jury decided that Sheridan had been a victim of libellous and fabricated stories over his personal life that were carried in the NotW in 2004 and 2005. The jury awarded £200,000 in damages – a record amount for a civil defamation case in Scotland. In a meeting with News International executives following the verdict Mr Murdoch apparently declared that no matter what it cost he wanted that "commie bastard" brought down. Not only had Sheridan taken on the might of News International, a corporation with almost unlimited resources at its disposal, he did so while representing himself in court, having dispensed with the services of his legal team midway through the trial.

But perhaps Sheridan's victory should not have come as a surprise at all. For what was also held up to public scrutiny and examination during the trial was the right wing propaganda machine that is News International, and, wider, the malign influence of the tabloid press in general.

Iain McWhirter, writing in the Sunday Herald, summed up the significance of the result: "It was a rebuke to an industry that preys on human misery and disclosure; that uses chequebook journalism, spin, sensation, distortion. This has been a long time coming".

An appeal by the NotW against the outcome was, of course, to be expected. They claimed that the jury’s verdict was "perverse" and immediately called for a re-trial, preferably this time without the inconvenience of a jury as arbiter. In effect what they were and are seeking is a re-run with the same evidence being presented hoping for a different result in front of a Judge instead of a jury.

Alistair Bonnington, BBC Scotland's solicitor, commented following the trial: "Traditionally, we have very few perjury persecutions in Scotland, despite the fact that an application of elementary logic tells you that perjury must be committed every day in almost every court in Scotland in criminal trials. So, setting all special factors aside, it is highly unlikely that there will be a perjury prosecution following on the civil jury trial in the Court of Session."

In a very telling point made in light of the decision by the Crown to launch a perjury investigation, Bonnington also said: "The prospect of a lengthy, complicated and inevitably useless investigation into the possibility of perjury having been committed in the Sheridan case should fill the Scottish taxpayer with horror. Why should precious resources be wasted on such a stupid exercise?"

Good question. Why indeed? Bonnington, interviewed on Newsnight Scotland, went on to give this explanation: "The Faculty of Advocates was severely embarrassed by the fact that its two leading QCs in Scotland were involved in this case. Tommy Sheridan sacked one and beat the other. There is something very odd about this."

It is almost without precedent for such an inquiry to be launched after a civil defamation case. There are almost never perjury cases into criminal trials even where a Sheriff or a judge openly says he does not believe a witness or the accused. So why has this unprecedented action been taken?

...We believe, in this case, that there exists the strong possibility of collusion involving sections of the Scottish legal establishment and Lothian and Borders Police, responding to pressure being exerted by News International, a multinational news and media corporation owned by a man who hardly pays a penny of UK income tax but who exerts, though his various newspapers, an inordinate and corrupting influence over the body politic of this country. The sole aim of News International in all of this from the very beginning has been to destroy the reputation of a prominent socialist and political figure in Scotland because of his political convictions and, more, his effectiveness in communicating those convictions. Tommy Sheridan's only crime, the real reason that the NotW have gone after him, is that he has spent his entire adult life speaking truth to power, in so doing threatening their own interest in maintaining a status quo of inequality, racism, poverty, and a weak and fractured trade union movement. Some may claim that in this we are delving into the realms of conspiracy theory. Yet it is indisputable that the massive resources exerted on this investigation, with at least £500,000 of public money having already been spent at time of writing, married to the way in which the police have conducted their inquiries thus far, points to a strenuous effort being made to target Tommy Sheridan.

As such, we demand:

  1. An end to vast amounts of public money being used to bankroll a private vendetta by News International against Tommy Sheridan.
  2. A public inquiry into how and why an unprecedented decision to launch a police inquiry was taken.
  3. An inquiry into the possibility of collusion between the police, the Scottish legal establishment and News International.
  4. Make no mistake we fully understand the serious nature of the claims made in this statement. We have not made them lightly. However, as a political party formed to fight inequality, injustice, poverty, war, racism and exploitation in our society, we will not stand by and allow Tommy Sheridan, an outstanding socialist and class fighter, to be crucified by the establishment

Full article at www.solidarityscotland.org/content/view/352/