Tommy Sheridan arrives at the high court in Glasgow during his 2010 perjury trialCredit: Andrew Milligan/PA
Broadcasting regulator Ofcom has rejected a complaint from former Scottish Socialist Party Leader Tommy Sheridan over a BBC documentary, "The Rise and Lies of Tommy Sheridan".
Sheridan, who was convicted of perjury in 2010 after lying under oath in a lawsuit against the News of the World, claimed that the BBC's use of CCTV footage of him being interviewed by the police constituted unfair treatment and unwarranted infringement of privacy.
Solicitors acting on behalf of the former MSP alleged in their complaint that the BBC had used the footage "specifically for sensational purposes" and to "suggest that Mr Sheridan was guilty [of perjury], although the matters discussed related to a different period of his life".
The complaint also claimed that no consent had been sought from Sheridan for the footage to be used, and that the BBC's description of it during the programme as "leaked" suggested that the broadcaster was aware that it "contained a cloak of confidentiality".
Responding to the complaint, the BBC said it was legitimate for the programme to address Sheridan's personal life prior to the trial as it formed an important context. The broadcaster also claimed that Sheridan's admissions during the police interviews of involvement in group sex and of an affair with a News of the World columnist were part of the "issue of his sexual character", which was "brought up consistently during his trial".
Ofcom found against both parts of Sheridan's complaint, ruling that the use of the footage was "unlikely to materially affect viewers' understanding of Mr Sheridan, his defence at trial and his denial of the allegations levelled against him, in a way that was unfair", and that, while the former MSP had a legitimate expectation of privacy while being interviewed by the police, the BBC's right to freedom of expression and the public interest surrounding the perjury case justified the intrusion of privacy and lack of consent.
Ofcom also rejected a separate privacy complaint against the programme by Sheridan's wife Gail, whose interviews with police were also shown, ruling that Sheridan had made details of her interviews public himself in order to further his defence and that parts of the recordings were already in the public domain.
The programme – which aired on 23 December 2010, the same day that Sheridan was found guilty at the high court in Glasgow – covered the background to the perjury case against him and his history as an MSP.
Sheridan was convicted after the Glasgow court ruled he had convinced a libel jury in 2006 that the News of the World had lied about him making visits to a Manchester sex club, for which he was awarded £200,000 in damages.
In January this year, a month after being found guilty of perjury, Sheridan was sentenced to three years in prison.
The CCTV footage shown in the BBC documentary had not been aired in court, and was introduced in the programme as "leaked police interview footage seen for the first time".
Sheridan's perjury trial gained an additional amount of publicity in 2010 due to connections to the phone-hacking scandal. Former Downing Street director of communications Andy Coulson, who was editor of the News of the World when the paper ran the contested stories about Sheridan, gave evidence at Sheridan's perjury trial.
Strathclyde police confirmed earlier this year that they had opened a perjury investigation into evidence given by Coulson at the trial.
Free daily newsletter
- How to get your next podcast commissioned
- 10 free sources of data on the media industry
- Weekly journalism news update: how to 'unbias' the news, interactive timelines and solutions-based photojournalism
- The Sista Collective: a BBC podcast that puts BAME women at the heart of key conversations
- Value My News to help UK-based hyperlocal publishers monetise content