We are posting live updates and analysis from the perjury trial of Her Majesty's Advocate versus Thomas Sheridan and Gail Sheridan.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
The Crown Summing Up, The "McNeilage Tape"
Report by Whatsy
Mr Prentice first displayed the evidence bags containing the camera, the cables and the micro-cassette pertaining to the McNeilage Tape, and mentioned that although Mr McNeilage had testified that there had been an altercation at the end that he had taped over, the one thing that was unchallenged was that the tape was a film of an event. The challenge, as MR Prentice understood it, was that the man in the film talking to Mr McNeilage was not Tommy Sheridan.
Mr Prentice suggested to the jury that although they might not think it honourable of Mr McNeilage, “a lifelong pal” of Tommy Sheridan, to record a conversation, that doesn't change the fact that it was done.
Mr Prentice listed a number of Crown witnesses who had testified that they thought the voice on the tape was Mr Sheridan's – George McNeilage, Carolyn Leckie, William Moore, Colin Fox, Alan McCombes, and that although Andrew Coulson and Bob Bird had identified the voice as Mr Sheridan, the jury should be cautious with their evidence as they have an interest in it being Mr Sheridan.
Mr Prentice quoted defence witness June Hill saying it was “not even remotely like Tommy Sheridan”.
Mr Prentice then suggested to the jury that there is another way of assessing the tape, the fleeting glimpse of the man alleged to be Mr Sheridan in the tape, but that even Carolyn Leckie placed nothing on this, as it was the voice that was the most important.
Mr Prentice then moved on to the timing of the recording, recalling Mr McNeilage's testimony that Mr Sheridan sent him a text, then phoned him before the meeting to say he was five minutes away. Mr Prentice then quoted evidence from Mr Sheridan's mobile phone records that showed a text message being sent on 18 November 2004 at 18:43:34 and a phone call to the phone Mr McNeilage testified as his, although it had been registered to someone else.
Mr Prentice examined the defence proposition that the film was actually made in 2006, and recalled the evidence of William Moore who, although at one point had said the film was made in 2006, if the jury looked closely at Mr Moore's evidence he had also stated he had seen the tape in 2004, as also mentioned in Mr Moore's statement to the police. Mr Prentice also pointed to the denial by “Tommy” on the tape of the Fiona McGuire story, then to the next call Mr Sheridan made on his phone at 20:44:17. Mr Prentice put it to the jury that the News of the World would have got “incredibly lucky” to fit the film into this gap between Mr Sheridan's use of his phone, and that while it may be suggested to them that the NoW had combed through Mr Sheridan's phone records for such a gap, this had not been suggested to any witnesses.
Mr Prentice then recalled the testimony of the witness who had been standing next to Mr Sheridan when he participated in a television interview, with the witness saying that the voice on the tape was not Mr Sheridan, but that when the recording of the interview had been played in court, Mr Sheridan had suggested during that interview that it was his voice, spliced with some other voice.
The McNeilage tape was then played to the court on the Audio-Visual system, with Mr Prentice stopping the tape at certain points to comment on the contents:
Firstly, Mr Prentice asked the jury to consider the initial detail Mr McCombes would need to know if he or Mr Baldessara had scripted the tape, as had been alleged by the defence, although this suggestion had not been put to Mr Baldessara when in the witness box.
At a point in the tape where “T” makes reference to Alan McCombes “shagging” Carolyn Leckie behind his wife's back, Mr Prentice asked whether this was detail that Mr McCombes would include when writing the script for the tape.
At a point where a PCS strike, Rose Gentle and a Baird Memorial event are mentioned, Mr Prentice asked why this would be included in a scripted film.
At the point where “T” shows a text from Mr McCombes to Ms Leckie suggesting Tommy was going to join the Independents, which that had apparently been sent accidentally to the phone of “T”, Mr Prentice again asked why this had been included in the film if it was scripted by Mr McCombes.
At the point where “T” is heard saying about Fiona McGuire “I've never even met the lassie”, Mr Prentice asked the jury why, if the News of the World was behind the tape, would they include this on the film when it “rubbished their headline story” regarding Ms McGuire and Mr Sheridan.
At the point where “T” is heard describing Katrinne Trolle as “a diamond” and “fucking solid” an that she would not tell anyone about the Cupid's visit, Mr Prentice put it to the jury that that was exactly how it had turned out and that Ms Trolle had not admitted anything to the News of the World.
At the point where “T” discusses speaking to Lynn and Carol, presumably Mr Sheridan's sisters, about leaving his wife, Mr Prentice asked the jury why this should be included in the film as it could be denied by the people concerned, as it had indeed been done in their testimony. If the alleged conspiracy against Mr Sheridan was true, why include such detail?
At the point where “T” mentions talking to a journalist on the way to the train station, Mr Prentice suggested this was exactly what had happened, as mentioned during the journalist Paul Sinclair's testimony.
The tape was then stopped, and Mr Prentice suggested to the jury that if the News of the World really had created the tape, it was of pretty poor quality, and that if, as alleged by the defence, the recording had to be stopped because the actor playing “T” had stood up, why not do a second take?
Mr Prentice put it to the jury that the tape was the “genuine article”, and that although £200,000 was a lot of money, that was not a reason to conclude that it had been concocted.
The Advocate Depute then moved to the conclusion of his summing up, which will be the subject of our next report.