Socialist Worker

Controversy as SSP officials testify in Sheridan case

by Esme Choonara
Issue No. 2009

The start of Tommy Sheridan’s court case against the News of the World has seen the Scottish tabloids full of lurid headlines.

Sheridan, former convenor of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) and member of the Scottish parliament for Glasgow, is suing News Group Newspapers, publishers of the News of the World, over stories about his sex life which he claims were untrue and defamatory.

The first five days of the case have seen a number of journalists in court, including the Scottish news editor of the News of the World, as well as some of the leading SSP members who have previously criticised Sheridan.

Four journalists have appeared for the News of the World. Alan Caldwell refused to name his “unashamed swinger” businessman contact who claimed to have seen Sheridan in a Manchester swingers’ bar.

Douglas Wight, Scottish news editor of News of the World, admitted lying to an informant and taping them without their consent. Richard Keen QC for Tommy Sheridan said to Wight, “You don’t have much hesitation in lying to people do you?” Wight replied, “In that instance I didn’t tell the truth.”

The court heard tapes of Wight talking to Fiona McGuire, a woman Tommy Sheridan was alleged to have had an affair with. At one point in the tapes, Wight says “We’re the News of the World, we’re chancers you know… You’re one of us now, you’ve gone over to the dark side.”

However, it is the appearances in court of SSP policy coordinator Alan McCombes and SSP councillor Keith Baldasarra, that caused the most controversy.

McCombes originally held a strategy of “non compliance” with the court when he refused to hand over the disputed “minute” of an executive meeting.

This incurred a few days imprisonment and large court costs for the SSP. This strategy ended on Friday when, under questioning, McCombes gave details of alleged private conversations with Sheridan.

Keith Baldasarra has also appeared in court. Questioned by the News of the World’s QC, he told the court that he had considered resigning his post when he heard about a “night of madness” involving a possible prostitute.

Under cross examination, however, he admitted that the sex was between consenting adults and that he had accepted Sheridan’s assertions that he was not involved.

The case is expected to last for three weeks.

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Article information

Sat 15 Jul 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2009
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