A SCOTTISH defence contractor has been accused of contempt of court after admitting it faked evidence in a legal row over the Royal Navy's new Type-45 destroyers.
Multimillion-pound marine engineering firm Ticon Insulation will go to Scotland's highest court today for a hearing in a rare civil action that, if successful, could result in its managing director being jailed for up to two years.
The company, highlighted by the anti-independence Better Together campaign as a big winner from lucrative UK Ministry of Defence contracts, denies contempt of court but acknowledges fabricating a vital court document.
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The admission comes after a bitter legal dispute with former business partners Deck-Rite, which worked with Ticon on a £3 million contract on the Type-45 vessels when they were being built on the Clyde.
It thrusts Ticon, based in Stepps, North Lanarkshire, and its managing director, Tom Stark, into the centre of the highest-profile case of its kind since former No 10 spin doctor and ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson was charged with lying during the Tommy Sheridan trial.
Ticon and Mr Stark are both cited in a minute of contempt lodged by Deck-Rite's lawyers at the Court of Session in Edinburgh to be heard today by Lord Woolman.
Deck-Rite hopes the judge will now order a rare civil proof of contempt, most likely to take place in the autumn.
Its contempt of court action, which has been cleared by the Lord Advocate, is civil. But any punishments for Ticon or Mr Stark would be criminal.
Deck-Rite, which is based in Bishopbriggs, East Dunbartonshire, is already suing Ticon in a dispute over £750,000 it believes it is due for work it carried out insulating the decks of the six hi-tech Type-45s.
Ticon disputes that it owes the money. As part of its defence, it claimed the contract with Deck-Rite came after it invited two other companies to tender.
The company produced a tender letter from one of those firms. However, Ticon has since admitted this letter, crucial to the commercial dispute and supposedly nearly a decade old, was fake.
In a minute lodged by lawyers for Deck-Rite, Ticon and Mr Stark are accused of "a premeditated and sophisticated scheme to procure and present a fabricated document with the intention of deceiving the court and thereby interfering with the proper administration of justice and subverting a fair trial".
The document added: "It is criminal at common law. The false evidence given by Mr Stark on oath at the open commission amounts separately to an offence."
In formal documents lodged with the court, lawyers on behalf of Ticon said: "The purported tender dated April 14, 2004, was a fabrication."
But they claimed the fake was the result of a "gross misconception" on the part of Mr Stark, who said he
was merely trying to recreate a document he insists once existed.
The lawyers said: "Mr Stark's conduct did not involve wilful defiance of, or disrespect towards, the court."
It is rare for contempt of court allegations to arise during civil or commercial cases in Scotland. But such allegations are taken seriously.
Contempt of court at the Court of Session, if proved or admitted, would be punishable by a up to two years in jail, a fine or both.
Ticon is nominally Scottish but a fully owned subsidiary of Norwegian multinational Wilh Wilhelmsen.
It is working on a £57m deal to insulate the two new aircraft carriers being partly built on the Clyde.
The contract was earlier this year cited by Dunfermline and West Fife Labour MP Thomas Docherty as evidence for the "Union dividend" secured by Clydeside defence contractors from Navy projects such as the carriers.
No-one was available for comment at Ticon yesterday.