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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Scottish prison service tried to gag me, says Tommy Sheridan

Scottish prison service tried to gag me, says Tommy Sheridan

Solidarity party leader says he was asked to sign gagging order as he is released from prison a year after being jailed for perjury

Prison executives have dropped "illegal" plans to ban the socialist leader Tommy Sheridan from meeting the media and making speeches after his release from jail, his lawyer has said.

Sheridan walked free from Castle Huntly open prison on Monday morning, a year after being jailed for perjury during his libel trial against the News of the World, to live at home under curfew and wearing an electronic tag until July.

The Solidarity party leader had been poised to issue proceedings for a judicial review later on Monday, claiming he had originally been asked to sign early release papers with an explicit gagging order that prevented him speaking to the media for the next six months.

Talking outside his home in Glasgow, with his wife Gail beside him, Sheridan said: "Up until a few hours ago, I didn't know I would be able to speak because up until a couple of hours ago, I was still gagged. I was told two hours ago that gag has now been lifted."

Aamer Anwar, his lawyer, said that just before his release on Monday morning, Sheridan was handed new release papers with that restriction deleted.

"There was no rhyme or reason why the Scottish prison service should want to impose a condition that he mustn't speak directly to the media. It was illegal; it was a breach of his human rights and it would have been challenged," Anwar said.

Sheridan claimed he was confident he would soon be fighting a successful appeal against his "unfair, unsafe and unsound" perjury conviction in December 2010.

The former MSP was jailed for three years in January 2011 after being found guilty by a majority verdict, after the longest perjury trial in Scottish history, of several perjury offences when he won a £200,000 libel case against the now defunct tabloid.

His trial hit the international headlines after the prime minister's then head of communications, Andy Coulson, a former News of the World editor, was made to appear as a defence witness.

Sheridan personally questioned Coulson on whether he knew about hacking at the newspaper after Sheridan's name and mobile number appeared in papers belonging to Glenn Mulcaire, the private detective retained by the NoW and jailed for hacking.

Professor Gregor Gall, a former friend of Sheridan's and author of a critical new biography of the former MSP, Tommy Sheridan: From Hero to Zero?, said Sheridan risked any chance of resuming his political career if he continued to insist he was innocent.

"Tommy faces a critical juncture in his political life," said Gall, a professor of industrial relations at Hertfordshire University. "Either he locks himself into maintaining his innocence and victimhood lest he undo all his previous work, and open himself and others up to charges of perjury.

"If he goes down this path, he will become a one-trick pony. Or, he could choose to take the bold step and admit his guilt. Then he might at least gain forgiveness from some and redemption from others. Only through this admission can he have any hope of making a genuine political return."


The Probation Service tried to gag me but I said I would challenge it by judicial review and they backed off.

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