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Salmond: I was disadvantaged in court by ‘reprehensible’ withholding of evidence


By PA News

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Alex Salmond has alleged the Scottish Government’s “reprehensible” failure to release “crucial” documents put him at a disadvantage in both his criminal trial and legal challenge against the Government’s investigation.

The former first minister also revealed his legal team will ask the Lord Advocate whether the Government was in contempt of court over the “withholding of relevant evidence”.

The Government’s investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against Mr Salmond was successfully challenged by the former first minister, with ministers eventually conceding the case in January 2019.

He was awarded £512,250 after the Court of Session ruled the investigation was unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias” because of prior communication between the investigating officer and complainants.

The following year, a jury acquitted Mr Salmond of all charges of sexual assault and attempted rape after a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.

To withhold this information is reprehensible. To attempt to excuse the withholding of this information is indefensible
Alex Salmond

A Holyrood committee was set up to examine the Scottish Government’s botched handling of the harassment complaints, but members have repeatedly expressed disappointment in ministers’ reluctance and failure to hand over documents and to publish the legal advice they received.

Mr Salmond has now criticised the Government for not providing his legal team with some of the documents that have now been released, and questioned whether it amounted to contempt of court.

In written evidence to the committee, Mr Salmond said his lawyers have discovered 46 documents from the Government’s latest submission of almost 400 documents to the parliamentary inquiry that were not provided as part of either the criminal or civil court processes.

“Of these, some are of limited interest but many are crucial and could have been significant in both the civil and criminal proceedings,” Mr Salmond wrote.

He continued: “First, some of these withheld documents would have added a further powerful argument to the judicial review on bias, not just reinforcing the revelations about the role of the investigating officer, but also introducing an argument of bias in the actions of the decision maker, the permanent secretary.”

Lord Advocate James Wolffe has previously given evidence to the Holyrood committee examining the handling of harassment allegations against former first minister Alex Salmond (Russell Cheyne/PA)
Lord Advocate James Wolffe has previously given evidence to the Holyrood committee examining the handling of harassment allegations against former first minister Alex Salmond (Russell Cheyne/PA)

Swathes of Mr Salmond’s evidence has been redacted by the Parliament against his wishes, purportedly over data protection issues or to avoid jigsaw identification – including the next seven lines that are believed to set out a second argument about the importance of the previously unreleased documents.

Mr Salmond added: “Notwithstanding the above, the withholding of relevant evidence to either proceedings contrary to a requirement for disclosure in the civil case and a search warrant in the criminal case, may amount to a contempt of court.

“We shall therefore refer the matter to the Lord Advocate, who has already described before this committee the rate of disclosure in the civil case as ‘unsatisfactory’.

“I suggest it is a great deal more than that.”

Alex Salmond was cleared of all charges against him following his High Court trial last year (Jane Barlow/PA)
Alex Salmond was cleared of all charges against him following his High Court trial last year (Jane Barlow/PA)

Mr Salmond further suggests the “highly relevant” documents could have influenced both court cases, and adds: “There seems to be no reasonable explanation for this apparent and flagrant violation of court direction, orders and search warrants.

“The documents, as produced, have followed a familiar pattern. The documents produced via orders of court have generally been damaging to the case of the Scottish Government.

“The same applies to these documents extracted by the committee and now being seen for the first time.

“It raises the question of what further documentation remains unseen.

His submission also suggests that, in addition to “frequent communication” between the investigating officer and two complainants, the Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans met with the women making the allegations before Mr Salmond was informed of the existence of any complaints – a disclosure he described as “staggering”.

Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans (Russell Cheyne/PA)
Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans (Russell Cheyne/PA)

Mr Salmond added: “If impartiality of the investigating officer is important, then the impartiality of the decision maker [Ms Evans] who thereafter makes a determination based on that information, is even more important.

“To withhold this information is reprehensible. To attempt to excuse the withholding of this information is indefensible.”

The newly-disclosed documents also indicate investigating officer Judith Mackinnon told both complainers and witnesses details of Mr Salmond’s own legal advice, he said.

“Similar to the revelations on the Permanent Secretary’s meeting, this material should have been disclosed as part of a general duty of disclosure in the judicial review and would have enabled my legal team to introduce yet further arguments on the bias of the investigating officer,” Mr Salmond wrote.

The following two lines are redacted, but he continues: “I was therefore placed at a disadvantage in both cases by the lack of disclosure.”


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