While acknowledging that former Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe "was a man with homosexual tendencies" when he met Norman Scott in 1961, Thorpe's defense lawyer denied today that Thorpe had an affair with Scott or later plotted to kill him.

In the only defense presented for Thorpe at his Old Bailey trial on charges of inciting and conspiring unsuccessfully to murder former male model Scott, attorney George Carman told the jury in his closing argument that no reliable evidence had been offered against Thorpe by the prosecution.

Corman dismissed the prosecution case as little more than "innuendo and smear" from "certain squalid witnesses called by the crown," including Scott, who Carman said had been paid by the media to fabricate stories implicating Thorpe.

Referring to the death of Thorpe's first wife in an automobile accident, the Scott affair and Thorpe's political ruin, Carman said, "Privately he is a man with a life that has had more than its fair share of grief and agony."

"Nature so fashioned him," Carman said, as Thorpe watched intently, showing no emotion, "that we know at the time he had the misfortune to ever meet Norman Scott he was a man of homosexual tendencies."

Carmen appealed to the jury to try Thorpe on the charge of inciting and conspiring to murder rather than "on the issue of homosexuality."

While homosexual activity of any kind was a crime here until the late 1960s, Carmen said, "times have changed," the law has been changed, and "tolerance, sympathy and compassion" should be extended to "people who have propensities which we personally may not understand."

Carman accused Scott of making up his detailed story about having had a sexual affair with Thorpe. The lawyer pointed out that Scott admitted on the witness stand that, after he first met Thorpe and conducted only a casual conversation with him, he falsely told people he was already having an affair with him.

Thorpe's attorney reminded the jury that Scott and the other key witnesses against Thorpe - former Liberal member of Parliament Peter Bessell, who testified that Thorpe repeatedly told him of his desire to have Scott killed, and former charter airplane pilot Andrew Newton, who testified that he was hired to shoot Scott - had accepted large amounts of money for telling their stories to the press.

Reminding the jurors that Bessell and Newton admitted they were likely to make more money from the case if Thorpe were convicted, Bessell declared that "a jury should never have to strain to consider whether a witness has shaped his evidence for financial considerations."