Today at the High Court at Glasgow Judge Lord Bracadale sentenced former MSP Tommy Sheridan to three years for perjury. This follows his conviction for perjury last month relating to his successful defamation case against the News of the World in 2006.
The perjury trial leading to this sentence was the first in the history of Scotland to take place following a civil case before the courts and was also the longest perjury trial in Scottish legal history. Sheridan conducted his own defence for a significant part of the trial after dismissing his Counsel, Maggie Scott QC. Sheridan famously sacked his legal team part way through the original defamation case against the News of the World in 2006. The case made legal history in another sense in that journalists were allowed to tweet live from the court room at the High Court while Lord Bracadale was sitting
The saga of this case is far from over. The News of the World have an appeal pending in the Inner House of the Court of Session relating to the damages award of £200,000 made against them following the defamation case. Mr Sheridan has also intimated that he is going to raise further action against the News of the World relating to separate allegations and there will no doubt be an appeal against his conviction for perjury.
Earlier this month it was reported that one of the jurors who sat in the Sheridan case posted her views on what happened within the confines of the jury room on the social networking site Facebook. This is something that could lead to a custodial sentence.
Some have argued whether custody is in fact an appropriate sentence in cases such as this and would some form of community punishment not be more appropriate. There is an argument on that side of the fence to be made. Perjury is not a violent offence and it is not something which would lead one to feel unsafe. One of prison’s primary functions is that of public protection. Is Tommy Sheridan a dangerous man from whom the public need protection? No, he’s only dangerous to himself and his family and not in a violent way. His actions often lead to emotional pain on his part and the part of his family, especially more recently. However, we must consider the gravity of the offence we are talking about here. Perjury is an offence that comes under the heading of offences against the administration of justice and that in itself is very serious indeed. Sentencing has to be appropriate to the crime. A prison sentence is the most severe form of punishment that our criminal justice system allows for and it is only right that such a serious offence is met with our most severe form of judicial punishment.
Lord Bracadale’s sentencing statement can be read here
Last updated: 12:06 26/01/2011