Tommy Sheridan called on the help of an old friend to “lose” the record of a meeting where the former MSP allegedly confessed to visiting a swingers’ club, a court has heard.
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Allison Kane, 42, told the High Court in Glasgow yesterday that the former convener of the Scottish Socialist Party asked her to “rattle a few cages” to ensure that the minute from an emergency meeting of the party’s executive committee did not surface.
Ms Kane, a part-time modern languages teacher who also works as an accountant, told the court she had known Sheridan for 10 to 12 years. She described him as “one of my best friends” and she also knew his wife Gail.
The Sheridans, both 46, are accused of lying in court during the successful defamation trial brought by Sheridan against the publishers of the News of The World, which alleged in 2004 that he indulged in group sex at swingers’ clubs. The couple deny all charges against them.
Yesterday, Ms Kane, of Cumbernauld, recalled a party meeting on November 9, 2004, during which Sheridan allegedly admitted to political colleagues that he had visited a sex club in Manchester on two occasions.
Ms Kane told the court: “He explained that he attended a sex club in Manchester and elaborated on that a bit. He mentioned another person who had been with him and he said that he’d been there a couple of times and that it was a possibility that there will be something in the press the following Sunday.”
She later spoke of a mobile phone call from Sheridan after a second party meeting on November 14.
Ms Kane said: “Tommy wanted to meet and speak with me. He was fighting for his political life and he viewed me as a friend and an ally. He wanted me to meet with the press and tell lies about other people.
“That was when my communication with him ended.”
Advocate depute Alex Prentice QC asked the witness what Sheridan had wanted. She replied: “To try and rattle a few cages so that no formal minutes would be produced of the meetings of the executive that we had on the 9th and then again on the 14th … for them not to be produced and for me to suggest to others that we should lose those minutes.”
Later, Ms Kane, a former treasurer of the party, told the court: “Tommy wanted any minutes to disappear.”
Ms Kane said she had no further contact with Sheridan after that phone call and took the decision to report his request to the executive committee.
“He was fighting for his political life and he thought that I would help him,” she added.
“I saw him as putting himself above the class and above the movement. I thought he was losing the plot a bit at that point.
“At first I didn’t know what to do because I knew if I reported it, that would be the end of my friendship with Tommy.
“In the end, the course of action that he was proposing would destroy the party and I reluctantly gave the information at the third executive meeting at which Tommy was not present.”
Ms Kane told the court someone at that meeting must have told Sheridan about the course of action taken by her as he sent a text message saying only “Thanks Comrade” afterwards.
On cross examination, Maggie Scott QC, for Sheridan, put it to Ms Kane that she was lying when she claimed that Sheridan had asked for her help regarding the minutes given that the party’s attempt to keep the record confidential had already failed, with newspaper stories already in circulation about the meeting.
Ms Scott said: “There had already been leaks to the press and already someone had broken ranks saying that Mr Sheridan was forced to resign. There are already stories spreading in the press about members of the SSP.
“So what I don’t understand, Ms Kane, is your suggestion that Mr Sheridan was wanting you to do this. It was lies. It just doesn’t make sense.”
The witness replied: “All I can say is what Tommy asked me to do.”
Earlier, Ms Kane was asked to recall the atmosphere of the meeting on November 9, 2004.
She said: “It was a shock for most people, you could hear a pin drop. It was shared shock.
“One or two were in tears, or close to tears.”
She added: “I realised what it would mean for Tommy. I don’t consider myself part of the moral majority and I don’t question other people’s actions. My shock was more what will happen next, what would happen to Tommy and to the party.”
Mr Prentice, for the Crown, asked Ms Kane if the accused had denied during the meeting that he had visited the sex club.
“No he didn’t. Not at all,” the witness said.
Mr Prentice continued: “Did he say anything more?”
The witness added: “That he had been silly and he had been erratic and that he regretted it.”
The trial continues.
Party members withheld vital document ‘to protect leader’
Scottish Socialist Party members did not want to hand minutes of a meeting where Tommy Sheridan admitted twice visiting a swingers’ club to court officials because it would have “dropped Tommy in it”, the former MSP’s perjury trial heard yesterday.
Barbara Scott, who took the minutes at the meeting on November 9, 2004, said a citation asking for the documents was sent to the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) headquarters by the News of the World ahead of Sheridan’s defamation action against the paper.
He won £200,000 in damages after the News of the World printed allegations about his private life.
On the second day of the perjury trial at the High Court in Glasgow, Ms Scott told the court the SSP was reluctant to hand over minutes.
She said: “The party didn’t want to hand them over because they would have dropped Tommy in it.”
Ms Scott claimed she had not seen the minutes from late November 2004 until shortly before the defamation trial in July 2006, when she asked for them back from the party over concerns that someone may try and tamper with them.
Ms Scott, 40, who used to be employed by the SSP parliamentary party, told the court: “I just thought I want to have them. I want to decide what I do with them because there was already talk in the party about whether or not to destroy minutes or change them.”
The court heard she was a witness in the earlier civil case and was cross-examined by Sheridan.
She said: “He said I had fabricated the whole minutes after the fact as part of a conspiracy against him.”
Advocate depute Alex Prentice, QC, asked what she thought of the theory.
She replied: “It’s laughable and not true.”
The court was told that SSP member Alan McCombes was jailed for contempt of court after he refused to hand the minutes to the court.
Ms Scott explained that the SSP wanted to keep the minutes for “political” reasons. She said: “It was a political decision. It was a personal matter. I agreed with it. They were our documents and the state didn’t have any right to our documents.”
Ms Scott told the trial she had not wanted to appear at Sheridan’s 2006 court case.
She said: “I didn’t want anything to do with it. It was a civil case between him and a newspaper. I didn’t want to help the News of the World.
“I knew what he was going to say was lies but at the same time I don’t like the News of the World -- I don’t think it’s a very nice newspaper. It’s a right-wing rag that prints horrible pictures of women. I just didn’t want to be involved with it, but unfortunately I was cited by both sides.”
It emerged yesterday that during the defamation trial Ms Scott kept her handwritten notes of the meeting in her handbag but did not show them to court.
She said she was at the Court of Session in Edinburgh only to answer questions posed to her and did not want to give the News of the World “a gifthorse”.
Ms Scott handed the documents to the police after the libel action because she was angered by Sheridan’s court victory. “I didn’t like the verdict because the whole evidence Tommy gave was lies,” Ms Scott claimed.
It was put to the witness by Maggie Scott, QC, acting for Sheridan, that she had fabricated the minutes after deciding to go to the police. Ms Scott said: “I suggest that it [the minute] came into existence when you decided to go to the police station with new evidence.”
The witness denied that was the case.
The trial continues.